For optimists, statistics provide data from which to analyze and draw conclusions. The data itself reveals significant information. For example, the number of marriages and divorces nationwide and in Florida, especially the reduction in those numbers, affect other related legal issues.
Florida following the national trend
Between 2000 and 2019, marriage has declined every year as a percentage of population. The drastic decline from 8.2 to 6.1 per thousand explains the parallel decline in divorces from 4 to 2.7 over the same time span. While Florida ranked 43rd in percentage of residents married, the state ranked above average in almost all measured categories per thousand over the two decades:
- Marriage rate: 12th at 7.1.
- Marriage rate change – 17th, having declined almost 25%.
- Divorce rate: 10th at 3.5.
- Divorce rate change: 23rd, having declined more than 31%.
Modification of alimony standard
A recent court case concerning a requested reduction in alimony demonstrates how the standards courts apply to divorce-related issues remain the same. A lower court reduced a husband’s monthly payments to his ex-wife by more than $2,000.
The Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed by applying the legal standard for modification of permanent periodic alimony: a substantial change in circumstances.
After a couple divorced in 2013, the husband sought modification of alimony in 2020 for two reasons – the wife’s increased earning capability and the use of alimony to support her mother. The lower court concluded the wife was voluntarily unemployed, had paid her mother’s living expenses in a condominium the two shared and earned investment income.
Education and terms of separation agreement are factors
The District Court of Appeal assessed the wife’s enrollment in a design certificate program and a temporary part-time job against previous cases.
In two cases that reduced modification, the wife had obtained a higher education degree or full-time employment and had searched out employment. Two cases that rejected modification included a wife who had worked minimally outside the home during marriage and one in which the settlement agree did not require the wife to work, respectively.
Divorce statistics have value as research tools to understand social trends. Every divorce, however, affects the parties emotionally, mentally and financially. An attorney who understands the laws of alimony modification can offer guidance.