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Potential Alimony Reform in Florida

The Florida Bar Association’s Family Law section withdrew its support from the pending alimony reform bill, even though it helped draft significant portions of it and lobbied for its passage.

Basically, the ongoing alimony reform battle in the Sunshine State pits payor spouses (mostly men) who claim that the system is unpredictable and unfair against payee spouses (mostly women) who argue that they put off their own career development to support their families and deserve to be economically compensated for that sacrifice. There is no shortage of anecdotal evidence for either side.

This latest measure would establish financial guidelines to determine the amount of payments, tie the duration to the length of the marriage, and eliminate so-called “permanent” alimony. For the most part, the Bar Association supported these changes. But lawmakers added several controversial provisions, including a presumption that 50-50 custody is in the children’s best interests and a guideline exemption for 20-plus year marriages.

Tom Sasser, the former chairman of the Family Law section, said the Bar Association might have swallowed the 20-year exemption but cannot abide by the 50-50 presumption, and the group is now in the “unenviable position of opposing legislation that it supported.”

Spousal Support

Governor Scott has already vetoed one alimony reform bill, albeit on a technicality. If he does not sign the 2016 version, reformers may or may not be able to climb back into the ring for round three.

Currently, there are five types of spousal support in Florida:

  • Pendente Lite: Temporary alimony is paid while the case is pending, and is designed to help the recipient spouse pay rental deposits, attorneys’ fees, utility deposits, and other immediate costs.
  • Bridge-The-Gap: This support, which is payable for up to two years after the divorce is final, helps pay for finishing a degree or living expenses during employment searches.
  • Rehabilitative: To obtain money to help pay for additional retaining and other expenses, the payee spouse must submit an action plan.
  • Durational: If rehabilitative alimony is not quite enough, a payee spouse may request durational alimony that is capped at the length of the marriage; for example, fifteen years of marriage means a maximum fifteen years of durational alimony.
  • Permanent: The judge may award permanent alimony if, based on the facts, the payee spouse cannot become self-supporting at a standard of living roughly equal to the one during the marriage.

The law gives the judge a number of factors to follow when setting alimony, including the duration of the marriage, fault in the breakup of the relationship, the payee spouse’s need, and the payor spouse’s ability to pay.

Rehabilitative, durational, and permanent alimony can all be modified based on a substantial change in circumstances. Additionally, these payments can also be modified or terminated upon a showing that the payee spouse is in a “supportive relationship” with a non-relative.

Reach Out to Aggressive Lawyers

Whether the alimony law changes or remains the same, both payor and payee spouses need strong advocates for their legal and financial rights. For a free consultation with assertive attorneys in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

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