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An End to Permanent Alimony in the Sunshine State? Florida’s Legislature Again Debates Alimony Reform

Changes in the law happen all the time. Whether it is a new ruling from an appeals court or the Supreme Court or a new bill from the legislature, the law continues to shift and evolve. That fact is one of the many reasons why having the right legal team on your side in your divorce case in Florida is essential. The right Florida divorce lawyer will not only be able to provide you with thoughtful advice about your case but also base that advice on the latest, most up-to-date knowledge of the law.

Alimony reform is again in the news in Florida as legislators once again debate the potential for modifying state law to eliminate permanent alimony here. Florida remains one of just a very few jurisdictions where a court can award permanent alimony to a divorcing spouse. (The others are Connecticut, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia.)

A bill that recently cleared an important hurdle in the House of Representatives would change that. HB 1559 would alter Florida’s alimony laws and remove permanent alimony as an option. The current reform proposal would allow for bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, and durational alimony. The longest possible duration any alimony award could run would be a period equal to one-half of the length of the marriage.

This means that a spouse who sought a divorce and an alimony award after a 30-year marriage would still be able to go to court and seek an award of durational alimony that could run for as long as 15 years.

The Reform Would Also Impact Timesharing Cases

In addition to ending permanent alimony, the reform proposal would also create a legal presumption in favor of 50-50 timesharing between parents. What that means is that whenever you go to court on a parental responsibility and timesharing matter – before the judge hears any arguments or any evidence – the court begins the process presuming that equal timesharing is the proper timesharing split and is what is in the best interest of the child.

When that kind of presumption exists in the law, the only way that a parent can obtain a timesharing order that awards anything other than an equal split is if he/she presents the arguments and evidence necessary to affirmatively overcome (or what the law calls “rebut”) that initial presumption in favor of 50-50 timesharing.

The bill passed an important hurdle as the House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of it, 10-6. One representative, Erin Grall of Vero Beach, voted against the bill, indicating that she supported the bill’s alimony reform provisions but opposed the part that created the statutory presumption in favor of equal timesharing. Specifically, according to Florida Politics, Rep. Grall stated that “I am supportive of the alimony provisions of this bill, but I’m very concerned about the 50/50 presumption around child sharing.”

One other state, Kentucky, enacted a statute in 2018 that creates a presumption in favor of “equally shared parenting time.” Right now, in Florida, timesharing orders reflect what the judge believes is in the best interest of the child based upon the specific evidence in that individual case, with no presumptions.

Whether your case concerns alimony, parental responsibility and timesharing, child support, equitable distribution, or some other aspect of family law, you need a skillful and reliable advocate on your side. Here at Sandy T. Fox, P.A., our experienced family law attorneys pride ourselves on being exactly that sort of powerful advocate for you. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation today.

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