The Florida Legislature Will Once Again Consider Implementing Alimony Reform in 2020

Florida, like all states, has laws governing awards of spousal support (also known as alimony) following a divorce. Typically, alimony involves a monetary payment from one spouse to the other to help the less well-off spouse maintain something close to the standard of living he/she enjoyed during the marriage. Florida has many different types of alimony, so if you’re considering a divorce, whether you’re the wealthier or the less wealthy spouse, you should take the time to retain a skilled Fort Lauderdale alimony attorney to help you ensure that the alimony ordered in your case is a fair outcome.

Unfortunately, in several areas of the law, society evolves and changes faster than the law. In some ways, that’s good, as the law should be a stable and consistent thing. Other times, though, it isn’t, such as when it doesn’t keep up with important shifts in the way people live. Believing that some of Florida’s alimony laws fall into the latter category, some members of the state legislature have, once again, championed alimony reform, with HB 843 having been introduced in the legislature in December.

One of the key targets that HB 843 seek to reform is the concept of permanent alimony. Generally speaking, permanent alimony means that the recipient spouse is entitled to continue receiving payments until she dies or remarries (or, in some situations, begins cohabiting with a partner.)

The policy basis for permanent alimony was to ensure an appropriate standard of living for a spouse who spent decades focusing on things like domestic chores and childcare while foregoing educational and professional development. Reform advocates contend that the spouses getting divorced today, even those whose marriages were long-term ones, have professional resumes that look more like blackish’s Dr. Rainbow Johnson than Leave It to Beaver’s June Cleaver.

Bill proposal would also target alimony’s ‘standard of living’ consideration

HB 843, as initially proposed, would put an end to all permanent alimony in Florida. The bill would only permit judges to order bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative or durational alimony.

Under current Florida law, one of the major factors trial courts consider in ordering alimony awards is the “standard of living established during the marriage.” Under the new bill, that factor would be removed entirely and replaced by an instruction for judges to consider the “needs and necessities of life for each party after dissolution of marriage taking into consideration that both parties will have a lower standard of living after the dissolution of marriage than the standard of living they enjoyed during the marriage.”

HB 843 also would place a hard cap on the length of durational alimony, with the bill stating that the “length of an award of durational alimony may not exceed 50 percent of the length of the marriage.”

Alimony reform in Florida versus other states

Other states have passed alimony reform legislation in recent years. In New Jersey, for example, alimony reform put an end to permanent alimony in that state. Even post-reform, recipient spouses who were in long-term marriages in that state can still receive substantial alimony. New Jersey now allows spouses who were in long-term (20+ year) marriages to receive alimony for an indefinite period. In that scenario, there are certain threshold life events that can trigger a change or termination of alimony, such as the obligor spouse’s reaching the federal retirement age.

Additionally, in New Jersey, reform capped the duration of alimony following short-term marriages. In the case of short-term marriages, the reform law said that alimony cannot last for a period of time longer than the marriage lasted.

While the law as a whole strives to be a stable institution, the statutory laws of every state are always changing. Florida’s alimony laws may be among those undergoing change in the near future. To make sure that you are getting fairest possible outcome in your alimony case, you need legal counsel that is up to date on all of the changes in the statutes and what they potentially mean for you. The knowledgeable alimony attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. are here to give you that kind of reliable representation. With clear advice, thoughtful strategies and diligent advocacy, we strive to provide each client with a positive result. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

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