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IN 2013, the Florida Legislature attempted to reform the statute concerning alimony, but the Governor vetoed the bill, largely because some of the provisions would have applied retroactively. Soon, the Legislature will be revisiting the statute, and this time around most everyone is anticipating some type of “reform.” Depending on your perspective this may or may not be good news. Anticipated changes include:
LENGTH OF MARRIAGE
Currently, there are three definitions of length of marriage: short-, medium- and long-term. Short is considered 7 years or less, 7 to 17 years is considered to be a medium length marriage, and more than 17 is a long-term marriage. The length of the marriage is important because it creates a presumption either for or against alimony. A long-term marriage creates a presumption for “permanent” alimony, that is, alimony to be paid indefinitely by one party to another, and a presumption against permanent alimony for short term marriages, but not rehabilitative or durational alimony.
The proposed bill defines the length of a short-term marriage as up to 11 years, a medium marriage as 11 to 20 years, and a long-term marriage as 21 and up. While the new bill creates a presumption in favor of alimony for long-term marriages, it eliminates the presumption in favor of permanent alimony. Further, it creates a presumption against any form of alimony for short-term marriages, those marriages up to 11 years.
LIMITATIONS OF COURT POWERS
Under the current law, the court can order permanent alimony. The court also can award other types of alimony, such as rehabilitative alimony or durational alimony, up to the length of the marriage. The proposed bill not only prohibits the court from awarding permanent alimony, but now sets a limit on durational alimony to one-half the length of the marriage. In limited circumstances, the court would have discretion to award more, but most cases likely would fall within the one-half guideline.
NEW ALIMONY GUIDELINES
In the past, the standard for alimony has been based on the needs of one party and the ability of the other party to pay. For the first time, the proposed bill sets forth guidelines for spousal support based on a percentage of the paying spouse’s gross income: 25% for short-term marriages, 35% for medium-term marriages, and 38% for long-term marriages.
One of the other issues tied into the proposed alimony reform bill is timesharing. Currently, the courts must consider more than 20 factors before making a timesharing decision. If the Legislature includes the 50/50 timesharing presumption provision in the bill again, and it passes along with the alimony reform provisions, this, no doubt, will have a very significant impact on divorcing families.
If you think you may be dealing with spousal support, child support or timesharing issues within the year, it is important to consult with an experienced family law attorney about the facts of your particular case. Click here to schedule a consultation with Sandra K. Ambrose today.