The Florida Legislature is once again in session. As it has done during the last few legislature sessions, the Senate and the House are considering radical changes to Florida’s alimony statute. Those changes include the following:
- Permanent periodic alimony will be abolished. Presently, if a marriage is 17 years or longer and there is a need for alimony, then it is presumed that the recipient spouse would receive alimony until he/she dies, until the payor dies, or the payee remarries. Under the current legislation there is no definition for long-term or short-term marriage. In addition, the proposed legislation specifically abolishes or deletes the award of permanent periodic alimony.
- Instead of being guided by “the standard of living” of the parties during the marriage, a family law court will be guided by the measure of “needs and necessities of life”. Even though this amendment may take into account certain expenses incurred by the parties during the marriage, such analysis is subject to a presumption that each party will experience a lower standard of living after the divorce. Consequently, this once very important component for determining the amount of an alimony award in Florida will no longer be considered by the courts if the alimony reform passes.
- In formulating an award of alimony, a Judge must first consider the application of bridge-the-gap alimony (limited to a maximum of two years), followed by rehabilitative alimony (limited to a maximum term of five years). The Court must make specific findings as to why these two forms of alimony are not appropriate before it can consider awarding durational alimony;
- Under the proposed alimony reform, an award of durational alimony will be limited to a maximum period of half the length of the term of the marriage. For example, if you were married 20 years, the maximum term of alimony that you could receive from a Judge would be 10 years. (It also could be far less than 10 years.)
- The amount of durational alimony will be the amount determined to be the obligee’s or payee’s reasonable need/necessities or 25 percent of the difference between the parties’ net incomes, whichever is less.
- Upon reaching legal retirement age or meeting the criteria for retirement defined by the propose Statue, requirement to pay alimony will be terminated.
The above changes will cause a radical reformation of the Florida alimony statutes. Currently, Florida defines a short-term marriage as 7 years or less. There is a rebuttable presumption that parties in a marriage that has lasted 7 years or less should not receive alimony. Long-term marriages are defined as lasting 17 years or more. If there is a need for alimony in a long-term marriage, then it is presumed that the alimony will be permanent periodic, which means it will be payable until the payor dies, the recipient dies, or the recipient remarries. The standard of living currently is still considered to be a major factor that Florida Courts consider in determining an alimony award. Because of the proposed changes, individuals who are involved in marriages of 7 years or more (and certainly 17 years or more) should consult with a divorce attorney if they believe that their relationship is rocky or if they believe that their marriage may terminate in a divorce.
It will take anywhere from 8 to 16 months to guide a contested divorce from its commencement to a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage. If the proposed alimony reform statute passes, it will go into effect either on July 1st or October 1st of 2020. The date the statute goes into effect, will be applied to any divorce case pending. This means that even if you are in the middle of your divorce trial when the statute goes into effect, the new alimony reform changes will apply to your case. As a result, it is vitally important that individuals who may be contemplating divorce or who are in a pending divorce case, consult with a divorce attorney and take the steps necessary to have their pending or potential divorces resolved prior to the effective date of these statutes.
At the present time, it cannot be predicted with certainty that any of these changes will occur. Even if the proposed changes to the alimony statute occur, we cannot be 100 percent certain that the proposed alimony statute will not be further modified by the Florida Legislature.
Since the Alimony Reform movement had been successful in passing alimony reform in the Florida Legislature during the past few years (albeit vetoed by then Governor Scott), it is highly likely that some of this alimony reform legislation will be presented to Governor DeSantis. Consequently, for those couples who have been married for 7 years or more and are experiencing difficulties in their marriage, it is essential that they confer with an experienced Florida Bar Board Certified Martial and Family Law attorney.
People need to educate themselves as to how the alimony reform statute may impact their pending or potential divorce cases. The partners in the Law Firm of Charles D. Jamieson, P.A. are Florida Board Certified Marital and Family Law attorneys who can educate you and guide you through this process as well as help you achieve results that are in your financial best interests.