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Are Florida Alimony Laws Outdated?

Alimony – Payment that a family court may order one person in a couple to make to the other person when that couple separates or divorces.

Money

In April 2013, Florida lawmakers sent Governor Rick Scott a request to drastically change the state’s current alimony laws.  According to the Florida Senate, SB 718 establishes guidelines for the duration and amount of alimony awards and revises other laws relating to dissolution of marriage cases.  Revisions included changes to the duration of alimony payments, awards of alimony based on length of marriage and amount of alimony based on income.  The original alimony statute was created at a time when the wife mostly stayed at home to take care of the household as many wives did not have technical skills or a college degree and would not be able to survive without their husbands’ income.  The husband would then be financially responsible to take care of his soon to be ex-wife.  Alimony is spousal support usually for the wife which was determined, amongst factors, including the needs of the wife coupled with the ability to pay of the husband when reviewed with the standard of living established by the husband and wife.  Child support is not alimony and is required to ensure that the needs of the children are being met.

Supporters of SB 718 wanted changes to the alimony laws to take into consideration that women are now active participants in the workforce and do not necessarily need the full financial support of their ex-husbands.  In addition, many ex-husbands are locked into paying a lifetime of set alimony payments without having the option to review the amount due to life and societal changes including decrease of income for retirement.

The proposed bill split the length of marriage into three categories: short, medium and long-term and had a retroactive effect affecting divorces prior to its passage.  Short marriages of 10 years or less would be capped at 25% of income, medium of 11-21 years of marriage would pay no more than 35% and alimony payments for marriages over 22 years would not exceed 38% of gross income.  The term of payments would be no more than half of the number of years of marriage unless a judge finds evidence to support awarding extra alimony.

Governor Scott vetoed this bill on May 1, 2013. In a letter written to Senator President Don Gaetz, Governor Scott explained his reasoning for not supporting the bill citing his opposition to the retroactive nature of the bill but did say “there are several forward looking elements of this bill”.  If passed, Florida would have become the fifth state to eliminate permanent alimony.

The bill may be tabled for now.  Revisions to this bill have been made and are likely to be pursued in the future but will likely be revived after the 2014 Florida Gubernatorial Election.   Please contact Ronald Luzim, Esquire of Coral Springs about how alimony can impact your divorce and related family issues.