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Modification of Alimony - Evidence of Payee Spouse's Financial Status

Higgs v. Higgs, [Ms. 2170122 and 2170123, Aug. 24, 2018] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. Civ. App. 2018). This decision by Judge Pittman, reverses the Mobile Circuit Court’s judgment entered on the former husband’s motion to modify periodic alimony. The former husband’s motion to modify periodic alimony cited a change in his circumstances which no longer allowed him to practice as a heart surgeon as a primary factor supporting reduction in periodic alimony payments. Ms. *2-3. On the day before trial, the former wife filed a motion in limine to exclude evidence of her alleged decreased need for periodic alimony. Ms. *5. In response, the former husband argued that his pleadings had placed the former wife’s decreased needs in issue and alternatively sought leave to amend his motion to modify. Ms. *5-6.

In reversing, the court noted that the two principal factors a trial court must consider in adjudicating a motion to modify periodic alimony is “the financial needs of the payee spouse and the financial ability of the payor spouse to respond to those needs.” Ms. *12 (internal quote marks omitted). The court also noted that the trial court’s grant of the motion in limine and denial of the husband’s motion for leave to amend resulted in an absence of any evidence in the record of a change in the wife’s needs and “effectively foreclosed the very relief sought by the former husband.” Ms. *14. Accordingly, the court held that “the trial court acted outside the scope of its discretion in barring the former husband from introducing evidence of the former wife’s financial status and that that error prejudiced the former husband’s claim that his alimony obligations should be terminated rather than simply reduced.” Ms. *16.

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