A recent attempt to overhaul Florida’s alimony laws, which proponents of reform term “antiquated and outdated,” ultimately failed to pass the state Senate. Unlike many other states, Florida currently allows judges to award parties in dissolution of marriage permanent alimony, which only ceases at the death of the payer or the remarriage of the receiver. Most states terminate alimony upon the retirement of the payor.
Proponents of the bill, like the advocacy group Florida Alimony Reform, believe that the proposed changes will benefit families and children across the state. Members of the group and a few of the individuals they represent testified in front of lawmakers. Personal stories of how their lives are impacted by the requirement to pay permanent alimony swayed many lawmakers to support the bill.
The proposed bill would have laid out new guidelines for judges to follow when awarding alimony. Permanent maintenance under the current law is typically awarded in marriages that lasted between seven and 17 years and where there is “clear and convincing” evidence that another form of alimony is not reasonable. Also, the receiver must not have a significantly higher income than the payor after taking the award amount into account.
The proposed law would have also capped the amount of alimony awarded to a certain percentage of the payor’s monthly income, and would allow for termination of alimony when the payer reaches full retirement age. Cohabitation, child support and other factors would also be considered in the determination of the award. Judges would be required to make certain written findings regarding the award of alimony. Long-term awards, which would replace permanent alimony, could still be made to spouses who show a need for financial support following dissolution.
Historically, women were the recipients of most alimony awards. When the Florida law allowing permanent alimony was passed, the majority of women were homemakers and relied completely on their spouses for financial support. This dynamic has changed dramatically, as more and more women are earning advanced degrees and holding executive and professional positions. In many families, both spouses work full time to financially support themselves and their children.
However, even with the changes in family dynamics, Florida’s alimony laws have remained much the same. Recent legislation that would change the current landscape of alimony in Florida easily passed the Florida House of Representatives with a vote of 83-30. However, the Co-sponsor of the Senate bill did not introduce the House version for a vote. For advocates of change, the wait continues until next year.
If you are contemplating divorce, contact an experienced divorce lawyer to discuss your legal options.