Is Permanent Alimony really Permanent?

There has been much litigation in Florida about whether retiring is a material and significant change in circumstances to warrant a downward modification of permanent alimony. There is binding case law from the Florida Supreme Court that says that a payor spouse can retire, and can modify permanent alimony, as long as it does not put the recipient spouse in the peril of poverty. The Florida Supreme Court in Pimm v. Pimm, 601 So.2d 534,1992 held that husband’s retirement was change of circumstance that could be considered together with other relevant factors and applicable law upon petition to modify. However, the Court in Pimm also held that a trial court should consider that even at age of sixty-five or later, a payor spouse should not be permitted to unilaterally choose voluntary retirement if this choice places the receiving spouse in peril of poverty. 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.

What does this mean? Sometimes it means that retiring is delayed because of an Alimony obligation. Should people have to work past the age of retirement because of an obligation to pay another person support? Is this fair? Should someone have to continue to work well into his/her 70s or 80s? Shouldn’t a person be allowed to retire? On the other hand, should someone be allowed to retire in order to escape the necessity of paying alimony?

As recently as this past month, courts around the county are grappling with this issue as people are living longer lives – often into their 80s. Here is a good article from Boston that deals with what our Florida Supreme Court dealt with in Pimm.