Florida does not have a statute of limitations for divorce decrees. This means that a court is free to reopen the divorce case in certain circumstances, for example, if it transpires that a spouse intentionally hid assets to reduce a property settlement. It also means that either spouse can apply to modify alimony payments in the future if circumstances change. Different rules apply for contesting a divorce ruling, when timing is absolutely critical.
Appealing a Divorce Decree
It's possible to contest a divorce ruling if you believe that your spouse committed fraud on the court, or there was a legal mistake by the judge. Florida law presumes that the court did everything right, however, so the burden is on you to prove that the trial did not come to the proper conclusion. New evidence must be submitted; you cannot reargue the same facts simply because you did not like the judge's conclusion in the original trial. Timing is critical. Appeals must be filed by a strict deadline, which is either 10 or 30 days from the judgment, depending on the type of appeal. Miss the deadline, and you lose your right to appeal.
Hiding Assets and Florida Statute of Limitations
After the appeal date has passed, the terms of any property settlement are final. Courts rarely overturn this aspect of a judgment and usually will only do so where there is clear evidence of misconduct by one spouse. If a spouse intentionally hid large amounts of assets during the original trial, for example, then this might be sufficient grounds to reopen the case. Either party can file a "Motion for Relief From Judgment or to Set Aside a Judgment" at any time after the divorce decree, asking the court to set aside the original property settlement and substitute a new one. It's a technical area of law, and you will need a lawyer to manage the appeal.
No Statute of Limitations for Alimony Payments
Any type of periodic alimony – alimony that is paid monthly for a specific duration or until either spouse dies or the recipient remarries – is subject to modification at any time if the financial circumstances of either party change substantially. For example, you can file for upward modification if the paying spouse wins the lottery, or the paying spouse can file for downward modification if he loses his job due to ill health. The court will look closely at the change in circumstances to determine whether it justifies an adjustment to the alimony settlement.
Nonmodifiable Alimony in Florida
Florida divorce statutes incorporate the right to modify alimony into every divorce decree unless the parties waive this right. If the divorce settlement specifies that alimony is "non-modifiable," then the court will not reopen or modify the award, even if one spouse remarries. The parties are presumed to know what they signed up to. In Florida, if the divorce closes without an alimony award, then the judge has nothing to modify. You cannot go back and ask for alimony payments later.
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