RIP Florida Alimony Reform
Florida lawmakers will not consider another spousal support overhaul measure this session, even though reform advocates and the Florida Bar Association submitted a joint proposal to the Senate Children, Families, and Elders Committee.
Committee Chair Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) said the body would not consider the proposal because lawmakers have “more pressing issues” to deal with. Last year’s effort, which eliminated permanent alimony and gave judges discretion to deviate from a set formula in some cases, seemed to be on the verge of success, until lawmakers inserted a provision which stated that shared custody is presumptively in the best interests of the children. Governor Rick Scott cited that term in his veto message. In 2013, Gov. Scott vetoed the first reform measure because it was retroactive.
This year’s alimony reform sponsor, Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples), said she understood the reasons for Sen. Garcia’s decision.
Spousal Support Amount
Reformers in Florida and other states have consistently complained about alimony laws which, they say, give judges too much discretion in setting the amount of payments. Generally, lawyers are not too fond of these kinds of laws either, because they often create unusual and inconsistent results.
However, a subjective law does have the advantage of case-by-case flexibility, and Florida’s alimony law is very subjective in this area. There are many factors to consider, including:
- Financial resources of both spouses, including any award of separate property,
- Each spouse’s earning capacity, based on health, education, job experience, and other factors,
- Noneconomic contributions to the marriage as a caregiver,
- Standard of living during the marriage, and
- Any agreements between the spouses.
Essentially, these and other factors are designed to assess the obligee spouse’s economic need and the obligor spouse’s ability to pay spousal support.
Duration of Payments
As a rule of thumb, the longer alimony payments go on, the more likely reformers are to object to the system, because they see long term alimony as basically a form of socialism that redistributes income between the spouses.
Florida has both short and long-term spousal support packages:
- Temporary: Many judges award spousal support while the case is pending, especially to financially needy nonfiling spouses, to give them money to cover unexpected divorce-related expenses.
- Bridge the Gap: If these temporary needs still exist past the date of divorce, the judge can extend payments up to 24 months.
- Rehabilitative: If there are longer term needs, such as going back to school, and the obligee spouse adheres to a rehabilitation plan, the judge will extend payments even further to help the obligee spouse become self-sufficient.
- Durational: This form of alimony, though not permanent, is more of an income redistribution. Durational alimony is capped at the length of the marriage (g. 20 years of durational alimony for a 20-year marriage).
- Permanent: If the spouse will never become self-sufficient, the spouse is entitled to ongoing alimony in an amount that, as closely as possible, allows the obligee to keep the same standard of living.
All these forms of alimony, except bridge the gap, can be modified or even terminated later.
Go With Assertive Lawyers
A divorce lawyer is important to protect both your legal and financial rights. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. We routinely handle matters in St. Lucie county and throughout the Treasure Coast.