Changes to Florida alimony law on the horizon

A bill that would dramatically change how and under what circumstances Florida courts could award alimony as part of a divorce decree is expected to pass both houses of the Florida legislature within the next few months. If signed by Gov. Rick Scott, the reform legislation would go into effect on Oct. 1. Similar reforms were proposed in 2013, but Gov. Scott vetoed that bill due to his concern that it would apply retroactively.

The new bill, which The Florida Bar has expressed its support for, would put an end to permanent alimony awards. Instead, the length of time during which alimony payments would have to be made would be based upon the duration of the marriage. Any award would be for a minimum of 25 percent of the length of time that the couple was married, and payments would not extend past a maximum of 75 percent of the the marriage's duration. The guidelines would require a court to take into account the disparity in the incomes of the two former spouses, and the total of alimony payments and any child support payments that were also ordered could not exceed 55 percent of the payer's income.

Courts could vary from the guidelines when dealing with a lengthy marriage that included a spouse who had not been working for many years. In addition, an alimony award could be modified upon the occurrence of certain conditions, including the retirement or unemployment of the payer or an increase in the income of the recipient.

If Gov. Scott signs the bill, it will not have any retroactive effect. Florida residents who are currently in a marriage that is breaking down and who are thus considering filing for a divorce may want to consult with a family law attorney in order to determine how the new law would affect their situations.

Source: Sun Sentinel, "Lawmakers inch closer to eliminating alimony", Dan Sweeney, April 8, 2015

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