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All Quiet On The Western Front

Advocates are apparently still licking their wounds after Florida Governor Rick Scott vetoed a second spousal support reform bill in April 2016. According to a recent survey, most Floridians support alimony reform, so it will probably happen eventually. Other states, including Illinois, New Jersey, and South Carolina, have significantly re-tooled their alimony laws in recent years, largely along the lines of the proposed reforms in the Sunshine State.

Generally speaking, reformers do not oppose short-term or rehabilitative alimony that’s designed to help obligee spouses achieve self-sufficiency. Rather, for the most part, reformers do not believe that spousal support should be a way to permanently equalize the standard of living between the ex-spouses, as is sometimes the case in Florida.

Factors to Determine Spousal Support

Some reformers also want alimony to be more objective, perhaps with a formula that ties the amount of payments with the income of both spouses and the duration of payments with the length of the marriage. Under current law, judges may consider a wide range of factors to answer these questions, including:

  • Relative Economic Status: Instead of income being the sole or predominant factor, it is only one consideration out of many.
  • Length of the Marriage: Unlike some other states, Florida judges may consider fault, including adultery, when calculating alimony payments.
  • Amount of Time Needed for Self-Sufficiency: There is basically a presumption that obligee spouses are almost automatically entitled to short-term alimony, but there must be an independent justification for long-term payments.
  • Provisions Concerning Children: The judge looks at child care both during the marriage and after the marriage, to give credit for spouses that are stay-at-home parents and help them provide for the children.

Additionally, the court may consider “Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.”

Types of Alimony

After considering all the relevant factors, the next step is to determine the type of alimony best suited for the divorcing parties. There are several different models:

  • Temporary: Alimony pendente lite (while the case is pending) gives obligee spouses the financial assistance they need to pay legal fees and cover other unanticipated expenses, like day-care deposits, and it terminated automatically when the case is over.
  • Bridge-the-Gap: This type of assistance is also strictly temporary, because it has a definite cutoff date (maximum two years after the divorce is finalized). It gives obligee spouses an income stream while they attend school or are otherwise unable to work full time.
  • Rehabilitative: This longer-term alimony is a type of permanent support that reformers dislike. However, there are strings attached, because obligee spouses must file written action plans to receive rehabilitative alimony.
  • Durational: These payments are strictly for income equalization purposes; the payments are capped at the length of the marriage.
  • Permanent: If the obligee spouses cannot become self-sufficient, for whatever reason, permanent alimony may be appropriate.

Bridge-the-gap alimony cannot be modified, but most other forms can be changed based on new circumstances. Moreover, rehabilitative alimony can be modified if the obligee spouses do not follow the plans they submitted.

Contact Experienced Attorneys

Spousal support is a part of most Florida divorces. For a free consultation with a seasoned family law attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, PA. After-hours visits are available.

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