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Bill Could Bring Sweeping Changes to Florida’s Alimony Laws

On behalf of Matthew Lane

Proposal Would End Permanent Alimony and Introduce New Guidelines

Two years after an alimony reform bill was vetoed by the governor, Florida lawmakers are working on a new bill that would significantly change alimony law in the state. The proposed legislation would end permanent alimony in most cases and would significantly rework how alimony amounts and duration periods are calculated. Unlike the previous bill, the latest proposal would not apply retroactively and would give judges more leeway in determining alimony. Critics of the measure, however, say it is still overly favorable to alimony payers at the expense of recipients.

Alimony Reform

Under the proposed legislation, permanent alimony would be removed as would the concept of mid-term marriages. The definition of short-term and long-term marriages would also be reworked. Instead of the current definition of 17 years or longer, long-term marriages would be defined as 20 years or longer. The law would also stipulate that alimony payments end once the payer reaches retirement, according to the Sun Sentinel.

If the bill passes then alimony payments would be calculated based on the payer’s income minus the recipient’s income. Duration periods would depend on the length of the marriage. Alimony duration for a marriage lasting longer than 20 years would be three-quarters of the length of the marriage. For marriages lasting less than 20 years, the duration period would be a quarter of the marriage’s length.

Favoring Payers?

Proponents of the bill say it is a compromise of a bill that was passed two years ago before being vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott. Unlike the failed bill, the current bill would not apply retroactively and judges would be given increased discretion to award alimony amounts that may not fully comply with the new guidelines.

Despite such compromise measures, critics of the bill say it is still overly favorable to payers and imposes a “one-size-fits-all” solution onto too many people. They point out that while payer’s can petition for a reduction in payments if the recipient’s income increases by 10 percent, recipients can only petition for an increase if the payer was unemployed or underemployed when alimony payments were first determined. They also worry that parents who gave up career prospects in order to stay home and raise children will be treated unfairly if the bill passes.

Divorce Law

While the above bill is still in its early stages, it could signify a large shift in how alimony payments are determined if it ultimately becomes law. For anybody going through a divorce, the bill could prove important for them in the near-future.

The story should also remind people dealing with any family law issue about why it is important to talk to a family law attorney to discuss their case. Family law is undergoing constant changes and only an attorney who is familiar with these changes can offer clients the advice and help they need when dealing with issues that affect not just themselves but their loved ones, as well.

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