How to Stop Getting Taken to the Cleaners so You can Have a Reasonable Standard of Living, Too
THE GOOD NEWS: PERMANENT ALIMONY NO LONGER EXISTS!
For spouses exposed to liability for alimony in their Florida divorce, the fear of the unknown is terrifying.
Due to a very nebulous alimony statute in place since the dawn of alimony, Florida divorce attorneys have struggled how to advise their clients accurately about the amount of alimony they should pay or would likely be ordered to pay by the judge on their case.
The blurry Florida alimony statute also resulted in vast differences in alimony awards between judicial circuits and even within the same circuit between judges.
The best we could do as divorce lawyers was to be familiar with how a particular judge on a case consistently ruled in the past and whether the judge was liberal with alimony awards, or not so much.
In Florida, alimony had been a contentious issue for many years because we were one of the few states that continued to allow permanent alimony.
Over the decades, many a payor of alimony experienced a harsh new reality with the pinch of large alimony payments to their ex on top of their separate living expenses – downsizing to apartments, moving in with family, trading in their vehicle for less expensive models.
This type of impact, as well as cases where payor spouses paid alimony for longer than they were married, bolstered the sentiment that permanent alimony was unjust and unduly burdensome, especially when their income decreased, or their ex-spouses increased their income or moved in with a new romantic partner.
What prevented alimony reform in Florida for so long were the lobbyists in favor of keeping the cloudily-worded alimony statute because of the amount of attorneys’ fees it generated, and spouses receiving alimony payments arguing their permanent alimony payments were necessary and deserved, especially if they sacrificed their careers or education to raise children or support their spouses.
The end result: After more than a decade of legislative sessions and lobbyists who recognized how insanely arbitrary the Florida alimony statute was being applied to spouses paying alimony and their spouses receiving alimony, a miracle happened: The Florida Alimony Reform Bill finally passed and became law in July 2023.
HERE’S WHAT THE NEW LAW MEANS FOR YOU…
The bill aimed to create more uniformity and predictability in alimony awards and to encourage self-sufficiency and independence for both parties. The bill also addressed other aspects of divorce, such as parenting time-sharing and retirement.
The main changes in alimony after the Florida Alimony Reform Bill passed in 2023 are as follows:
- The option to award permanent alimony is eliminated, leaving bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, and durational forms of alimony. Bridge-the-gap alimony is short-term support that helps the recipient transition from being married to being single. Rehabilitative alimony is support that helps the recipient obtain education, training, or skills to become employable. Durational alimony is support that lasts for a set period of time.
- For durational alimony, the amount and length of alimony are based on a formula that considers the income of both parties and the length of the marriage. The formula provides a range of alimony amounts and durations that the court can choose from, depending on the circumstances of each case. The formula also takes into account any child support obligations of either party.
In addition to the types of alimony now available, the bill also provides that:
- The court can consider the adultery of either spouse and any resulting economic impact in determining the amount of alimony awarded. This means if one spouse cheated on the other and caused financial harm, such as spending marital funds on an affair partner or neglecting household duties, the court can reduce or increase the alimony accordingly.
- The court can reduce or terminate alimony if the recipient cohabits with another person in a supportive relationship. This means if the recipient lives with someone else who provides financial or emotional support, such as sharing expenses or household chores, the court can lower or end the alimony payments. The court can also retroactively modify alimony if it finds that a supportive relationship existed or has existed in the previous year.
- The court can reduce or terminate alimony upon retirement of the payer. This means that if the payer reaches retirement age or retires early due to health reasons or other factors, the court can adjust or end the alimony payments. The court has to consider several factors, such as the age and health of both parties, the economic impact of retirement on both parties, and the motivation and likelihood of returning to work for the retiree.
- The court can modify a parenting plan and time-sharing schedule without requiring an unanticipated change of circumstances. This means that if either parent wants to change the arrangement for how they share custody and visitation of their children, they do not have to prove that something unexpected happened that affects their ability to care for their children. Instead, they only have to show that the modification is in the best interest of the children.
THE NOT SO GOOD NEWS: YOU MAY STILL BE REQUIRED TO PAY ALIMONY FOR AT LEAST HALF THE LENGTH OF THE MARRIAGE OR MORE
The law caps the length of time for which durational alimony may be awarded based on a percentage of the length of the marriage.
For a short-term marriage (less than ten years), durational alimony lasts no more than 50 percent of the length of the marriage. For a moderate-term marriage (ten – twenty years), durational alimony lasts no more than 60 percent of the marriage; and for a long-term marriage (twenty or more years), durational alimony lasts no more than 75 percent of the length of the marriage.
There is a provision in the law that pierces the cap, but only under “exceptional circumstances.” At present, the lack of case law interpreting this language in the new statute means this is a gray area for which your Florida divorce attorney won’t have a clear answer for a while.
Clarity Under the New Alimony Laws will be On-going:
The Florida Alimony Reform Bill has been hailed by some as a victory for fairness and modernization of family law, while others have criticized it as a setback for the rights of spouses who earn less income and overall economic security for families in Florida.
Supporters of the bill believe the new law eliminates lifetime payments that are unfair to payers who may face financial hardships or want to move on with their lives. They also believe it encourages recipients to become self-reliant and independent rather than dependent on their ex-spouses.
Opponents of the bill contend it harms lesser-earning spouses who have given up their careers or education to raise children or support their spouse. They also assert it fails to account for the gender wage gap and other barriers spouses face when they enter the labor market at a more advanced age.
The impact of the bill on divorcing couples in Florida will depend on their individual circumstances and the discretion of the judges.
However, it may influence future negotiations and litigation over alimony and other divorce-related issues. Therefore, anyone who has exposure to alimony payments in a divorce in Florida should consult with a qualified family law attorney to understand their rights and obligations under the new alimony laws.
If you have questions about the types of divorce available to you, please reach out to our team here at Morgan Divorce Law and let’s set up a no-obligation time to talk. We have headquarters in the greater Orlando area and Palm Beach County and have represented hundreds of residents in Central and South Florida. We can represent you in any county in Florida.
Email us from our website at MorganDivorceLaw.com or call us:
Toll Free Line: 877.694.8360
South Florida: 561.794.4724
Central Florida: 407.374.2983
Liberate Yourself. We’re in you’re corner.