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Will the Court Increase my Alimony Based on Cost of Living Increases?

The Third District Court of Appeal entered a ruling in an interesting case where a spouse requested an increase in her alimony payments based upon inflation and cost of living increases. In Silverman v. Silverman, the appellate court found that the trial court abused its discretion when it increased the Wife’s alimony payments based upon inflation. The parties in Silverman were divorced in 1990. Pursuant to the Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage, the Wife received alimony in the amount of $7,700 per month. In 2009, the Wife petitioned the court to increase her alimony, arguing that her expenses were no longer being met due to an increase in the cost of living. The trial court ultimately increased her alimony to $10,200 per month. The appellate court found this was error. Several prior cases have found that a spouse may seek to modify their alimony payments based upon inflation and cost of living increases. The appellate court discusses at length a Florida supreme court case, Bedell v. Bedell. In Bedell, the former wife testified that because the cost of living had gone up since the divorce, her standard of living had gone down. Her major appliances, such as the dishwasher, the trash compactor, and the dryer, need to be replaced because the original items are now over fifteen years old. The carpet in the townhouse was worn out and the plumbing was in need of repair. She put bed sheets over the windows at night because of the absence of drapes. She did not use the air conditioner because she could not afford the high electric bills. She needed more money for food and clothing. She drove a [nine-year-old] 1982 automobile that keeps breaking down.

The Bedell court found that these factors together with the spouses increase in ability to pay led the Florida Supreme Court to rule that “the failure to award the wife an increase in alimony [from $415 to $496 per month] was an abuse of discretion.” In contrast, the court in Silverman stated that the needs alleged by Wife in the instant case, according to her own brief, include “a copious clothing allowance, four trips annually to an exclusive golf resort, numerous holidays and travels to Europe, California, Las Vegas, Bahamas, New York, cruises, ultra chic shopping, bi-annual new Cadillac automobiles, live-in maid service, in-house weekly massages, health club memberships, manicures, pedicures, and extravagant entertainment.” Bedell allows for a modification of an alimony award when the increased cost of living has left the recipient spouse in dire circumstances; it does not stand for the proposition that an adjustment is warranted due to the loss of live-in maid service.

If you believe you may be entitled to an increase in alimony based upon inflation and increased cost of living, contact your expert family law attorney to discuss the options that might apply to your case.

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