In the case of Florida, an unexpected medical downturn allows for a change in alimony payments on appeal

Brandon, FL (law firm Newswire) August 15, 2014 – Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals (DCA) recently ruled that a declining state of health in a former spouse can usually justify a reduction in his or her child support obligation.

In Garvey v. Garvey, a former husband tried to change his support obligations to his ex-wife after his multiple sclerosis (MS) began to cause significant health problems. The decision depended on whether the maintenance agreement had been made in anticipation of such a deterioration in health.

“I think the Fourth DCA made the right decision here,” said Attorney O. Reginald Osenton, who is not involved in the case. “But it’s important to note that this verdict was not a foregone conclusion simply because the former husband’s health was deteriorating. The decisive question was whether the husband had expected his health to deteriorate.”

In 2000, the husband had agreed to provide his former wife with a permanent alimony of $5000 a month. At this point he had been living with MS for 14 years. He was still working full-time and was told by a doctor that his MS was benign. However, in 2011 he suffered an MS attack that left him partially paralyzed and with a range of physical, mental and emotional problems. He was unable to stay at his job.

First, the court denied his motion to amend the child support agreement on the grounds that he had been told that MS was a very unpredictable disease that could result in permanent and significant disability – and with that knowledge he had agreed to the child support. But the Fourth DCA disagreed, noting that the child support agreement contained nothing about the illness and found that there was a lack of evidence that the parties had considered the possibility that the ex-husband could become incapacitated.

“Anyone who has experienced a deterioration in their health since entering into a child support arrangement, especially in an unexpected way, should speak to their divorce attorney about making a change,” Osenton said.

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