The rules of alimony (spousal support) in Florida have recently been under scrutiny. In the spring of 2013 an “alimony reform bill” that passed in both houses was ultimately vetoed by Florida Governor Rick Scott.
Florida alimony reform is a hot-button issue, and as an Orlando alimony attorney I have great interest in the progress of the proposed legislation. Changes in some form may soon become law as supporters of the bill continue to advocate for change. The bill is to be reintroduced in 2014.
Specifics are still being worked out, and through collaboration the final product may meet with Florida lawmakers’ and Gov. Scott’s approval – especially if a “retroactive alimony” provision, a main reason for the 2013 veto, is removed.
Gov. Scott vetoed the bill in part due to a retroactive clause that, if it became law, would have affected countless alimony orders made in the past. The new bill also instructed most divorced couples to share equal time-sharing of their children – another stumbling block for Gov. Scott, as well as a violation of the “single subject” rule for Florida legislation.
How Might the Changes to Florida Alimony Laws Affect You?
The following is a summary of the current Senate Bill 718, due to come back for further review, and possible approval of at least some of the points being passed into law in 2014.
For more information, an Orlando alimony attorney at Kramer Law will be happy to assist you with any issues or question about these pending law changes. Contact us anytime or call 855-Kramer-Now (855-572-6376).
By taking a closer look at the main points of the bill, the changes could be quite extensive depending on your situation. Current Florida alimony laws are explained here.
Changes to Short Term, Medium Term, and Long Term Marriages
Changing the definitions of the length of a marriage sets the stage for much of the alimony reform bill. The current Florida statutes define a marriage as follows:
- Short Term: Less than 7 years
- Medium Term: 7–17 years
- Long Term: 17 years and longer
The new proposed definitions of marriage are:
- Short Term: 11 years or less
- Mid Term: 11 to less than 20 years
- Long Term: 20 years or more
Guidelines in the proposed Alimony Reform Bill include:
- Permanent alimony will be abolished.
- For long-term marriages the presumption is in favor of awarding alimony, but with durational alimony rather than permanent alimony.Currently, long-term marriages are presumed in favor of permanent alimony. With the new law, there would be no permanent, periodic alimony. Instead, durational alimony may be awarded, but limited in length to 50 percent of the length of marriage. A spouse must provide written evidence to the court to support his or her need for longer durational alimony.
- For a mid-term marriage, there is no presumption in favor of either party to an award of alimony.
- For a short-term marriage, the presumption is against an award of alimony.(A “presumption” is an assumption of fact the court makes that may be contested and proved to be otherwise – meaning the burden of proof is on the spouse who wants to receive alimony to make the case that some form of alimony is justified.)
- The court’s preference for alimony will begin with bridge-the-gap alimony, followed by rehabilitative alimony.
- The court may award durational alimony following any length of marriage, but only when another form of alimony is inappropriate. Durational alimony generally will not exceed 50 percent of the length of the marriage.
- The new law will place caps on alimony based on a percentage of the paying spouse’s income and the length of the marriage.
- Courts will now consider nonmarital assets that either spouse relied upon during a marriage in determining alimony.
- A spouse who is paying alimony and who subsequently retires will be considered a “substantial change in circumstances,” potentially warranting a modification of alimony.
- If an alimony recipient enters into a supportive relationship with a third party, the new law will require courts to modify or terminate alimony.
- The new law will prohibit alimony when the receiving spouse makes an income equal to or greater than the paying spouse.
- Awards of temporary alimony must undergo the same considerations as any other type of alimony.
- The new law will provide mandatory, statutory formulas for calculating the equitable distribution of any marital portion of nonmarital real property.
- Courts will abide by the presumption that both parents are entitled to 50/50 time-sharing of children.
- The new law will apply these alimony rules retroactively, meaning that awards of alimony ordered prior to the new law can be affected.
You can view the complete Senate Bill 718 here.
If you have a potential alimony case, please contact our Orlando divorce law firm to schedule a free consultation so that we can discuss the effect these potential changes may have on your case.