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Florida Alimony Reform 2022 Update

Changes To Rehabilitative Alimony

Anticipated changes to Florida alimony law have cases piling up

Rehabilitative alimony is awarded to assist one party in transitioning from married to single by improving their ability to start a career and support themselves following the end of a marriage. It is intended to cover the expenses of either redeveloping previous skills or credentials, or to acquire new education, training or work experience to gain new employment skills or credentials.

To award rehabilitative alimony, one spouse has to present a plan of rehabilitation. The maximum length to complete the plan would be limited to five years, or as soon as its competed, whichever is sooner. A plan could include payment for the costs of education to attend college or vocational or trade school to enable a spouse to start or continue a career.

Alimony Reform Fails In Florida Once Again

Date July 2015 – ByPaige Carlos

When the Florida House elected in May to end their session three days early, they did so without addressing the contentious issue of alimony reform. By doing so the legislature declined to join the growing number of states across the nation that have recognized the need to address their antiquatedlaws governing the disposition of alimony. However, for those who seek reform there is hope for the future, as the debate will likely continue the next time the legislature gathers.

The Senate version of the bill, which the House declined to ratify, would have removed much of the discretion typically afforded to trial judges in determining an award for alimony. The bill would have replaced that discretion with default statutory formulas tailored to varying circumstances like the length of the marriage. Many have criticized the existing range of discretion for producing vastly different awards across cases with essentially similar facts. The resulting lack of predictability is one of the many things that have spurred the call for reform.

The deathblow to the bill came in the form of a provision providing for a 50-50 share of time with the children of the divorce. The votes in the House were split with some representatives claiming the split was fair while others saying it would lead to increased litigation. The bill would also have required a judge who deviates from the 50-50 presumption to explicitly state the reasons for doing so.

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.

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Child Support And Alimony

Most paying parties look at child support and alimony as the same thing. However, the court looks at these things separately.

Alimony is the obligation a paying spouse needs to fulfill to their ex-spouse to help them get back on their feet. On the other hand, child support is the amount involved in raising a child. This covers food expenses, clothes, and other essential things a child needs to grow. If children are involved, courts can order child support and alimony simultaneously.

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Divorce In Florida Alimony

Florida divorce alimony laws provide for certain provisions that the parties can agree to. Note that the parties can agree that alimony will be non-modifiable. Such a provision must be clearly stated in a Florida Marital Settlement Agreement for example. There is a downside however to making alimony non-modifiable. For example, letâs say a party agrees to pay their spouse a certain amount of money for a specific period of time. And after the payments begin the paying spouse loses their job and their income is either gone or reduced. They would still be obligated to pay the alimony under the original terms because it was non-modifiable. And if the receiving partyâs financial need increases subsequent to the commencement of payments, they would not have the ability to ask for an increase in alimony because it was non-modifiable. Sometimes itâs wise for the payor to insist for example that if their spouse gets remarried, that alimony ceases. A provision to make alimony non-modifiable should state for example that it is non-modifiable as to amount and duration, and in every other regard, for any reason whatsoever.

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Who Is Entitled To Alimony In Florida

The overriding legislative intent in establishing alimony law is that the State of Florida does not want to support an impecunious spouse by way of welfare, food stamps, and the like. Therefore, courts will look to the breadwinning spouse to ensure that the other spouse does not go homeless or without basic living necessities.

What this has translated to by way of laws and judicial interpretation is that there are two spouses who enjoyed a certain standard of living throughout the marriage, and, upon dissolution of that marriage, both spouses should continue to enjoy that same standard of living.

To the extent that one spouse cannot afford that established standard of living with his or her own income, the other spouse must provide supplemental income. Of course, what usually occurs upon dissolution of marriage is that the standard of living enjoyed by two people in the same household will go down when there are two households to maintain.

In determining whether to award alimony in Florida, the court will first make a determination as to need and ability to pay and then the court shall consider all relevant factors, including, but not limited to:

The standard of living established during the marriage

The duration of the marriage

The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party

The financial resources of each party, including the non-marital and marital assets and liabilities distributed to each

All sources of income available to either party.

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Florida’s Alimony Reform Bill Update

On June 17, 2022, the Alimony Reform Bill that passed both chambers of the Florida legislature this past legislative session, was sent to Florida Governor DeSantis office for review. The Governor has until the end of this month to approve the bill and make it law, veto the bill, or if the Governor does not take action either way, it will automatically become law in Florida, effective July 1, 2022.

Key provisions of the Reform Bill are as follows:

  • Elimination of permanent alimony.
  • Limits rehabilitative alimony to five years and bar the awarding of durational alimony for marriages shorter than three years.
  • Durational alimony would be awarded for half the length of a marriage that lasts between three and ten years, sixty percent of the length of marriages between ten and twenty years, and seventy-five percent for marriages that lasted twenty years or more.
  • Limits durational alimony payments to the recipients reasonable needs or thirty-four percent of the difference in incomes, whichever is less.
  • Creates a wind-down period that would permit a retiring ex-spouse, after providing formal notice, to reduce alimony payments 25% per year over four years.

Some other provisions that were included bit are separate from alimony issues are as follows:

Child Support Vs Alimony

Florida House subcommittee approves alimony reform bill

Some ex-spouses may be dismayed to learn that the court can order one spouse to pay alimony and child support, assuming that the divorcing couple has children. The obligor spouse may feel this is inappropriate since his or her ex-spouse is essentially being paid twice. It must be remembered, though, that child support are payments that are made to help pay for the costs of raising children , whereas alimony is for the benefit of the receiving spouse. Because each type of support is meant for a different person, a court is free to award both types of support.

Remember, though, that while child support must be awarded in any divorce case in which there is at least one minor child, an alimony award is discretionary and a court has the freedom to award alimony in an amount it feels appropriate based upon the facts and factors before the court.

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Governor Ron Desantis Vetoes Florida Alimony Reform Bill 2022

On June 24, 2022, Governor Ron DeSantis vetoed the Florida Alimony Reform Bill that was presented to him by the Florida Legislature on June 17, 2022. Governor DeSantis, a Harvard trained attorney and former Special Assistant United States Attorney, vetoed the legislation based upon the fact that it violated Article I, Section 10 of the Florida Constitution. In his veto letter to Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd, Governor DeSantis stated: If CS/CS/SB1796 were to become law and be given retroactive effect as the Legislature intends, it would unconstitutionally impair vested rights under certain preexisting marital settlement agreements. See art. I, § 10, Fla. Const.

The Alimony Reform Bill would have had significant ramifications, including the following.

First, under the 2022 Alimony Reform Bill, permanent alimony would have been abolished for all divorce cases pending after July 1, 2022. As a result of the Governors veto, there are now four types of alimony in Florida. They are bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, and permanent alimony.

Fourth, at the present time, a payor can be ordered to purchase life insurance to secure an award of alimony. The 2022 Alimony Reform Bill eliminated this requirement and permitted the payee to purchase life insurance on the life of the payor if he or she chose to do so.

To speak with a West Palm Beach divorce lawyer to discuss alimony in Florida, contact the Lane Law Firm, P.A. at 363-3400.

How Is Alimony Calculated In Florida

The two primary factors the court must consider in determining the amount of alimony are the need of the payee spouse and the ability of the paying spouse to pay. The court may impute income to a spouse who is earning less than the spouse is capable of earning through his or her best efforts.

To impute income means that the court will pretend that the spouse is earning a certain amount of income for purposes of calculating the amount of alimony needed or the amount the paying spouse is able to pay.

Also Check: State Of Florida Divorce Records

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Determining How Long Alimony Will Be Paid:

The length of time the alimony payments last depends on the specifics of the support needed, but will vary significantly between courthouses and judges, which is why some states base the duration upon statutory formulas. Sometimes, the alimony will stop after a period of time deemed necessary for the spouse to become self-supporting. In other cases, the alimony will be paid over a much longer duration.

As a rule of thumb, alimony is usually not going to be longer than half the length of the marriage in marriages lasting less than ten years, but as the marriage gets longer, the duration the alimony payments last typically extends.

Although permanent alimony still exists in many states, the term is somewhat of a misnomer. As explained below, alimony payments usually stop once the person paying alimony gets to retirement age, or upon other major life events.

Bill Presented To Governor

House overwhelmingly passes reform bill for Florida public

According to the website of The Florida Senate, today legislative officers signed the enrolled bill, meaning the version finally approved by both houses, and presented it to the governor for his consideration.

As we recently posted, S.B. 1796 is extremely controversial and the governor has managed to keep his opinion to himself, so many in the state who deal professionally or personally with family law, divorce and related matters have been on pins and needles to learn what he will do with the law.

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The Child Custody Provision

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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How Does Alimony Work In Florida

The first thing one should know about alimony in Florida is that there is no mathematical calculation in determining alimony such as there is with calculating child support.

The court has broad discretion to decide entitlement to alimony, the amount of alimony, the duration of alimony, and the type of alimony. There are, however, perimeters to which the court is bound.

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Awarding Alimony Under Florida Law

Some factors affect the courts judgment when awarding alimony in Florida. The court will consider alimony if they deem it necessary. The ability to pay alimony is also a crucial element when deciding its validity.

If the court cant get enough relevant evidence to support a form of alimony payment, the court may deny the requesting party from receiving alimony from their ex-spouse.

Divorce Adultery And Alimony Requests In Florida

FL Alimony Reform bill – DeSantis: SIGN or VETO?

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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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.

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