The Changing Face Of Alimony In Port St. Lucie
This post is not about structural alimony reform in Florida. That issue was a political hot button a few years ago, but it appears to be dead in the water now. Instead, this post focuses on the monumental tax law change which took effect on January 1, 2019.
For decades, obligors have been able to deduct alimony payments from their taxable income, and obligees have had to report such payments as income. Now, the reverse is true. Obligors can no longer deduct alimony payments, and obligees must no longer report these payments as income.
Republican lawmakers and other supporters of the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act insist that the change will benefit divorced women, since they no longer must report an income stream on their tax returns. Opponents say that the change will hurt divorced women, because their ex-husbands may claim they are unable to pay as much. No one really knows for sure.
How should Port St. Lucie family law attorneys account for this change in both original determinations and motions to modify?
Types of Spousal Support in Florida
Fundamentally, the alimony tax law change may be designed to equalize the standard of living between the former spouses. That factor is more relevant in some types of Florida alimony than it is in other types. The different spousal support options in Florida are:
- Temporary: Alimony pendente lite (while the case is pending) automatically terminates when the divorce is final. Temporary alimony gives spouses the resources they need to pay attorneys’ fees, rental deposits, and other unanticipated divorce-related expenses.
- Bridge the Gap: The financial gap between marriage and divorce is sometimes rather wide. Some ex-spouses must go back to school or take other such steps to become self-sufficient. This two-year alimony program may help these spouses.
- Rehabilitative: This form of alimony is basically long-term bridge the gap alimony. If the obligee spouse needs more than two years to fund a rehabilitation plan, the obligor may have to help pay for this plan, provided that the obligee files a written plan with the court and sticks to it.
- Durational: Most long-term alimony payments fall into this category. Support payments are capped at the length of the marriage . For example, if the marriage lasted fifteen years, durational alimony payments may last up to fifteen years as well.
- Permanent: Judges rarely award permanent alimony. Usually, it’s only available if the obligee spouse has a serious physical or mental disability and will therefore never be economically self-sufficient.
The longer alimony payments last, the more effect the tax law change has. However, tax considerations are just one factor to consider in this area, as outlined below.
Alimony Factors in Florida
Overall, the judge must balance the obligor’s ability to pay with the obligee’s economic need. Tax considerations obviously have a bearing on the obligor’s ability to pay. For example, if Jim was paying $50,000 a year with the tax write-off, he might only be able to afford $40,000 a year now that the deduction is gone.
There are a number of other factors to consider, including:
- Length of the marriage,
- Custody of minor children,
- Economic and noneconomic contributions to the marriage,
- Relative age and health of each spouse, and
- Standard of living during the marriage.
If these factors materially and permanently change, either party may modify the order to pay alimony.
Team Up with Savvy Lawyers
In the new year, some alimony rules are changing while others are staying the same. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.