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Alimony Reform In Florida 2022

Florida Legislature Considers Substantial Shakeup Of Alimony Law

FL Alimony Reform bill – DeSantis: SIGN or VETO?

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 Floridas 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.
  • The amount of durational alimony will be the amount determined to be the obligees or payees reasonable need/necessities or 25 percent of the difference between the parties net incomes, whichever is less.
  • Factors Affecting Alimony Awards

    Once the court reviews everything and comes up with an order declaring that alimony is appropriate, talks about the type and the possible amount of alimony will follow. The Florida statutes provide a list of factors that serve as a guide when determining an alimony amount that is considered fair and appropriate.

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    Do You Need To Pay Alimony Forever In Florida

    Not all alimony agreements are permanent, but those that are will remain so. Lifetime alimony can occur if the marriage lasted longer than 17 years. Lifetime alimony lasts until one party dies or until the alimony recipient gets re-married. Lifetime alimony remains in place if the alimony payer gets re-married but the recipient is not re-married.

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    What Does This Mean For Your Alimony Settlement

    If you have an existing alimony agreement with your ex, nothing changes. If youre currently going through the process of creating an alimony agreement, understand that you can still file for alimony modification if there are major changes in either persons financial situation since the time alimony was agreed upon.

    Modify Alimony Based On A Change Of Income

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    Alimony obligation may be modified or terminated upon the death, remarriage, or when the other spouse enters into a supportive relationship. However, the most common reason for modifying alimony is an involuntary loss of income. When determining if modification is justified, the court will consider the parties relative financial circumstances at the time of the final judgment, compared with the parties relative financial circumstances when the petition for modification was filed. See Mastromonico v. Mastromonico. Voluntary income reductions by incurring debt are usually not a valid basis for modification. See Cowie v. Cowie. Additionally, voluntary reductions in income will also not serve as a basis to reduce the amount of alimony. See Cowie v. Cowie.

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    Work Out An Agreement With Your Spouse

    While obvious, consider trying to work out an divorce agreement with your spouse before beginning a divorce process.

    Ideally, you have a prenuptial agreement that protects you in place. If not you may be eligible to work out a postnuptial agreement with your spouse.

    A postnuptial agreement is a contract signed after marriage that spells out issues like alimony that would be triggered by a future divorce.

    Florida Judges love contracts. If you and your spouse sign a prenuptial agreement that passes legal muster then your alimony issue can be decided in advance. In a way that fits your alimony goals.

    Even if your divorce is already filed you still can work out an agreement with your spouse. Usually, a simple kitchen table discussion at the beginning of the case will let you know if you can work out a beneficial alimony agreement.

    Failed Alimony Reform Bill

    On Friday, June 24, 2022, Governor DeSantis vetoed the most recent efforts of alimony reform. The bill this year, in part, would have done away with permanent alimony and set up maximum payments based on the duration of marriage. However, the main reason this bill was vetoed was due to the presumption that children should equally split their time between parents. Currently, there is no presumption and the Court must apply a best interest of the child standard in fashioning a parenting plan.

    This will not be the last attempt at alimony reform and it is possible it may have passed but for the inclusion of the 50/50 timeshare presumption. Florida law currently includes provisions regarding permanent alimony.

    To find out more about how alimony is determined and whether you may be a candidate for an alimony award, please schedule a consultation with Carina Leeson.

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    It remains to be seen if the bills will pass. But, they are garnering broad support. On March 12, SB 718 passed 8 to 1 in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and HB 231 is expected to be received favorable in the Florida House.

    If passed, Florida’s alimony reform bills will mean big changes for spousal support. The bills will be retroactive, so many alimony payers will wish to go back into court and renegotiate spousal support terms. For couples going through a divorce after the bills take effect, it could shift the focus in divorce settlement negotiations. For example, a partner who knows he or she will likely receive a lower spousal support award under the new laws may take this into account by pushing for a greater share in a property division settlement.

    If you have question about spousal support, an experienced family law attorney can tell you more and craft a strategy to pursue the outcome you desire.

    The Child Custody Provision

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    As if the debate over alimony werent heated enough, Senate Bill 1796 follows in the footsteps of other recent reform efforts in proposing an amendment to laws regarding child custody. The proposal would require that judges deciding on custody start with the premise that the childs best interests are served by spending 50 percent of their time with each parent.

    Supporters say this merely puts into writing what judges already do in practice. They also point out that the proposal does not require a 50/50 split. It merely puts in place a rebuttable presumption. The presumption being that 50/50 is best, and its up to the parent who wants more than that to prove why.

    Critics say this will place a burden on parents who might be divorcing from a spouse over matters such as drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence or some other factor that has a direct impact on their ability to raise children. They argue that the current systemwhere judges can consider a wide range of factors and use their own discretionis more likely to produce good outcomes than the rebuttable presumption.

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    Who Pays Spousal Support In Florida

    Florida courts consider many factors when determining which spouse, if any, has to pay spousal support and how much they have to pay. Some of those factors include:

    • The length of the marriage
    • The spouses standard of living during the marriage
    • Whether a spouse gave up certain opportunities for the sake of the marriage
    • The spouses health
    • Whether there was abuse or domestic violence.

    The spouses lawyers make arguments regarding these factors and other factors that are relevant to the spousal support issue. In the end, it is up to the judge to determine a spousal support situation that is fair to the spouses.

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    Does Adultery Affect Alimony

    Florida is commonly referred to as a no-fault divorce state. Under Florida divorce law, you dont need to prove adultery or other reasons for a divorce. See Florida divorce law 61.052. All Florida law requires is there be irreconcilable differences to obtain a divorce. Therefore, adultery will usually not be relevant to a judges determination for permanent alimony in Florida. However, if marital assets were used to further the adulterous relationship, it can be considered during the divorce. The funds used on the relationship may be viewed as a waste and be a credit awarded to the innocent spouse.

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    Ending Permanent Alimony In Florida

    A provision to eliminate permanent alimony as an option for judges in divorce cases continues to be the featured part of the legislative effort. To best understand the impact if this proposal becomes law, lets consider it in the context of all types of Florida alimony

    Temporary Alimony: This only lasts as long as the divorce proceedings. When a marriage ends, its not uncommon for the spouses to be in different financial situations based on how the marriage functioned. A spouse who stayed at home with children or in some other way sacrificed a career for the marriage will be financially disadvantaged. Temporary alimony helps pay their legal fees and basic living expenses while the divorce is being litigated.

    Bridge the Gap Alimony: Similar to temporary alimony, but extending beyond the period of the divorce proceedings, this form of support is meantas the name suggeststo help provide support while the spouse establishes a new way of life. These payments can go up to two years.

    Rehabilitative Alimony: This type of spousal support lasts a little longer and covers the costs needed to allow the financially disadvantaged spouse to get back on their feet. An example might be vocational training. This is similar in intent and practice to Bridge the Gap Alimony. The key difference is that Rehabilitative Alimony is tied to a purpose rather than a timeframe.

    Does The Length Of Marriage Affect Alimony

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    Permanent alimony or long durational alimony awards are usually reserved for long-term or moderate-term marriages. Generally, short-term marriages are only eligible for short-term forms of alimony. Under Florida law, a short-term marriage is a marriage lasting less than seven years. A moderate-term marriage is classified as a marriage lasting between 7 and 17 years. A marriage lasting longer than 17 years is considered a long-term marriage. See Fichtel v. Fichtel.

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    Types Of Alimony In Florida

    Under Florida divorce law, there are five types of award alimony. A judge may award any combination of these types of alimony payments, which may be made periodically or in one lump sum. The types of awarding alimony are determined by how long the payments will last.

  • Temporary alimony is awarded during the divorce proceeding and ends when the final judgment is entered. See Florida divorce case Littlejohn v. Littlejohn to learn more about temporary alimony.
  • Bridge the gap alimony looks at what each spouse would need to transition to single life. Bridge the gap alimony is transitional it considers bills and foreseeable expenses of starting life without a spouse.
  • Rehabilitative alimony has goals similar to bridge the gap. Rehabilitative alimony considers the time one spouse may need to further their education short or moderate and/or obtain appropriate employment.
  • Durational alimony in Florida can be awarded in short-term or moderate-term marriages. It is alimony for a pre-determined amount of time and cannot exceed the length of the marriage. For instance, if married for two years, one spouse cannot receive durational alimony for more than two years.
  • Permanent alimony is usually only granted in moderate or long-term marriages. Permanent alimony usually continues until either death or remarriage.
  • Divorce Adultery And Alimony Requests In Florida

    Florida Statute 61.09 states that a paying spouse may be liable to pay alimony even if the couple is not divorced. The state doesnt recognize legal separation, unlike many states. However, alimony can still be pursued even if a couple is not legally divorced. The alimony under this statute supports the continuation of the marriage and provides a possibility of reconciliation in the future .

    A married couple still has a legal duty to help each other financially. That means a court may still order spousal support even if the couple is separated. The amount of alimony should be appropriate to the standard of living that the receiving party enjoyed during the couples marriage .

    For filing a divorce in Florida, the state law requires at least one of the spouses to be a state resident for six months before the divorce petition. However, when talking about durational alimony requirements, residency is not necessary .

    The state of Florida is known as a no-fault divorce state. This means under the states divorce law, an individual doesnt need to provide or prove any reason, such as adultery, to facilitate a divorce. So, the act of cheating, for instance, will play a minor role in a permanent alimony request.

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    After Years Of Legislative Battles About The Issue Gov Ron Desantis Faces A Decision About Whether To Approve Revamping The States Alimony Laws

    After years of legislative battles about the issue, Gov. Ron DeSantis faces a decision about whether to approve revamping the states alimony laws. The Legislature on Friday sent a contentious alimony bill to DeSantis, along with numerous other bills that passed during the legislative session that ended in March.

    Former Gov. Rick Scott twice vetoed proposed alimony overhauls. One of the most-controversial parts of this years bill would change the process for modification of alimony when people who have been paying seek to retire.

    Critics argued the plan could impoverish ex-spouses who have been homemakers and are dependent on the payments. Ex-spouses who pay would have to give one years notice indicating they intend to retire and could stop payments upon retirement, except under certain circumstances.

    The bill, approved by the Senate in a 21-16 vote and by the House in a 74-42 vote, also would do away with permanent alimony and set maximum durations of payments. Spouses who have been married for less than three years would not be eligible for alimony and those who have been married 20 years or longer would be eligible to receive payments for up to 75 percent of the length of the marriage.

    Another part of the bill would require judges to begin with a presumption that children should split their time equally between parents. Scott largely pinned his 2016 veto of an alimony bill on a similar child-sharing provision.

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    Florida Legislature Considering Two Alimony Reform Bills
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    Alimony: Retroactivity Permanence And Retirement Oh My

    Overall, the bill reflects a shift in perspective away from giving long-term financial support to a recipient spouse who was a stay-at-home parent or unable to work for other reasons during the marriage. Instead, the law would largely expect alimony recipients to rehabilitate their vocational or professional skills and become self-supporting.

    The main controversial provisions concerning alimony:

    • Permanent alimony would no longer be an option.
    • The paying parent would have rights at retirement that could lower payment amounts or end them altogether.
    • A judge could no longer consider weigh adultery as a relevant factor in the alimony decision.
    • The marital standard of living would be presumed lower after divorce for each new household.
    • People already divorced may face risk of having their alimony arrangement relitigated under the new law if an alimony modification request comes before the court. Many attorneys fiercely oppose this retroactive application because people might have made different decisions if they had known of this future and potentially detrimental change.

    The law would have some exceptions for permanently disabled alimony recipients, those who care full-time for a child of the previous couple with severe and permanent disabilities or those who would become impoverished without alimony.

    Supporters of the changes point to extreme cases of paying ex-spouses still having this obligation into advanced age or disability or being prevented from retiring.

    Hurry Up And Wait: Florida Alimony And Custody Reform Bill In Limbo

    On Behalf of Law Office of Forrest & Forrest, PLLC | May 27, 2022 | Alimony, Child Custody, Visitation and time-sharing |

    It has been almost two months since we wrote a series of posts about monumental and controversial legislation that had passed in both the state House and Senate by March 9. Floridians concerned about how alimony and parental time-sharing would change going forward are on pins and needles waiting to see whether Gov. Ron DeSantis will sign or veto it.

    As of this writing on May 27, 2022, SB 1796 is still awaiting his decision and news is scant about his intentions. It would take effect on July 1, which is fast approaching. The media is reporting that it has not officially been sent to him, but he is next and last in line on this decision.

    Vocal advocates on both sides of the issues have spoken out regularly. Under pressure, former Gov. Rick Scott vetoed similar bills twice. Lets look again at the most controversial provisions.

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