The Florida Senate and House of Representatives will consider a newly proposed bill that would effectively end lifetime alimony awards in our state and make several others changes to existing alimony laws. Florida is currently one of only a few remaining states with laws that allow awards of lifetime alimony. A similar bill failed in 2013, however the new bill does not retroactively affect individuals already receiving alimony, which was a major issue that concerned Governor Scott and other opposition in previous versions. In fact, the new bill is largely supported by lawmakers
Under the new law, courts would also have significantly less discretion in alimony awards and the formula would instead closer resemble child support determinations, which are based on a specific income-driven formula. Instead of arbitrarily choosing alimony amounts and the length of awards, courts would use a formula that considered the income of each spouse, the length of the marriage, and other specific factors. Courts would still have the discretion to go outside the guidelines when they believe there is justification to do so. However, the guidelines would largely help to standardize alimony awards so spouses would have a better idea of what to expect in a pending divorce case. Additionally, there would always be an end date for an alimony award.
Some of the other changes to alimony laws that would take place should the bill pass include as follows:
- Courts would need to consider whether parties are living up to their earning potential prior to awarding them alimony.
- Alimony increases will not be simply tied to increases in income for the payer.
- If the alimony payer remarries, a new spouse’s income and assets will not be considered as a factor in increasing alimony.
- Retirement will constitute a “substantial change in circumstances” that allows the payer to request a reduction or elimination of payments.
- No alimony will be awarded to a spouse married less than two years unless extreme circumstances exist.
- No individual will have to pay combined alimony and child support over 55 percent of their net earnings.
Such alimony reform will likely ease the fears of spouses divorcing after lengthy marriages that they will be handing over large payments indefinitely. However, the bill is not meant to solely benefit the alimony payer. Due to the standardized formula, many spouses will be awarded greater alimony than they may have been otherwise. The bill aims to promote fairness and balance between both payer and payee, though whether it will become law is yet to be seen.
An experienced Boca Raton family law attorney can answer your questions
Many people considering divorce in Florida may have concerns about the changes in the family laws and may wonder whether it is better to file for divorce before or after the potential change in the alimony laws. An experienced divorce lawyer can evaluate your individual situation and provide advice on what is in your best interests, as well as guide you through the divorce process. Please do not hesitate to call Boca Raton attorney Alan R. Burton for assistance today.