Retirement & Alimoney Obligations

So you have a court order which obligates you to pay alimony to your former spouse and you are approaching retirement age and you are unsure if you can retire or how retirement will affect your obligation. The Supreme Court of Florida has addressed the impact of retirement on support obligations, and has set forth the following criteria for modification in cases of voluntary retirement:

a) In determining whether a voluntary retirement is reasonable, the court must consider the payor's age, health and motivation for retirement, as well as the type of work the payor performs and the age at which others engaged in that line of work normally retire.

b) Based upon the wide spread acceptance of 65 or later, the payor spouse should not be permitted to uni1ateral1y choose voluntary retirement if this choice places the receiving spouse in peril of poverty.

c) The court further found that even at the age of 65 or later, the payor spouse should not be permitted to unilaterally choose voluntary retirement if this choice places the receiving spouse in peril of poverty.

d) Thus, the court should consider the needs of the receiving spouse and the impact a termination or reduction of alimony would have on him or her.

e) In that determination, the court should also consider the assets of the parties and whether the provision for alimony was contained in an agreement between the parties or solely in a judgment of the court.

For example, in Wiedman v. Wiedman, 610 So. 2d 681 (Fla. 5th DCA 1993), the former husband failed to meet his burden for modification where, although his early retirement at 61 was involuntary due to poor health, he did not present evidence that he was unable to obtain alternate employment suitable to his health conditions, and he admitted to being physically capable of working.

However, where a deterioration in the payee's physical condition forced early retirement, and evidence was presented that the payee could no longer perform his or her job or any other similar job, a decrease in alimony was proper. The court must consider the circumstances surrounding the voluntary retirement such as. a party's age, health, motivation for retirement, and the customary age of retirement others in that line of work, in order to determine whether voluntary retirement is reasonable). See also Moniz v. Moniz, 979 So.2d 1140 (Fla. 4th DCA 2008) (competent, substantial evidence supported a downward modification where former husband's voluntary early retirement from work as a police officer, where former husband had endured major health complications, including two heart procedures, a shattered knee, and an ankle injury throughout his career, that coupled with his age, made retirement reasonable.

While a court may downwardly modify alimony due to involuntary retirement, the court may award nominal alimony in these circumstances, which would allow the court to re-address if the payor spouse became re-employed. Lopez v. Lopez, 2007 970 So.2d 388 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007); Olsen v. Olsen, 964 So. 2d 798 (Fla. 5th DCA 2007).

So the answer to the question of whether retirement will cancel or decrease your support obligations is… depends. Only a qualified family law attorney will be able to tell you how retirement will affect your alimony obligation.

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