The Florida legislature is considering House Bill 231, which would significantly change the statute that governs alimony in Florida. The bill has successfully passed the Civil Justice Subcommittee and next will be considered by the House Judiciary Committee. Because this bill could have a profound impact on alimony in Florida divorce cases if it becomes law, Florida divorce attorney James S. Cunha has provided a summary of the changes being considered.
Alimony is designed to provide financial assistance to a party that was financially dependent on one’s spouse during marriage. While the most important criteria for a court considering alimony include the need of the dependent spouse and ability to pay of the spouse ordered to pay, there are many other factors that are considered based on case law and other Florida statutes.
Currently, there are four forms of alimony that may be awarded by a judge in a Florida divorce, which include permanent alimony, rehabilitative alimony, durational alimony and bridge the gap alimony:
Permanent Alimony: This type of alimony that may be awarded in a long-term marriage (or in shorter marriages in unusual circumstances) is intended to provide for the needs of the recipient spouse based on the standard of living during the marriage. This type of alimony may be appropriate when no other form of alimony is reasonable and/or fair, and the recipient spouse does not have the financial capacity to provide for the spouse’s needs as established during the marital relationship.
Rehabilitative Alimony: This type of alimony is provided pursuant to a specific plan to permit that recipient spouse to re-develop skills or receive new training so that the spouse can become self-supporting. This type of alimony award will specify the period of time necessary under the rehabilitation plan for the recipient spouse to become self-supporting.
Durational Alimony: When a marriage is of short or medium duration, alimony may be awarded for a specified period of time to provide temporary economic assistance. This type of financial support may be appropriate when permanent alimony is not appropriate because the recipient spouse does not need permanent financial support.
Bridge the Gap Alimony: This form of alimony is limited to a maximum period of two years. It is intended to assist the financially disadvantaged spouse during the transition from being married to single life.
The proposed bill in its current form would modify the Florida alimony statute in the following ways:
- The marital standard of living would be eliminated as a factor in determining alimony.
- Permanent alimony would no longer be available.
- Awards and modifications of certain types of alimony and amounts become dependent on meeting newly established evidentiary standards.
- The judge must provide written evidentiary findings based on relevant factors for determining alimony to justify an award.
- Presumptions of imputed earning ability are assigned to the recipient spouse.
- The modification of spousal support cannot be based merely on a reduced child support obligation.
- Formulas are established based on duration of marriage and income of the spouses for determining the amount of alimony.
- It creates a presumption that the parties’ standard of living will be lower following divorce.
- Retirement would result in termination of the obligation to pay alimony.
- The burden to establish need shifts to the paying spouse in some situations.
- The bill provides a schedule to review existing support and permits termination and modification of existing alimony awards.
Because the law concerning alimony may change significantly, it is important to seek legal advice regarding the potential impact of these changes if you are contemplating divorce, or you are currently the recipient or a paying spouse subject to an alimony award. If you are considering retaining an experienced South Florida attorney and have questions about alimony, our office may be able to help. No matter where you are located, West Palm Beach family law attorney James S. Cunha and his staff are just a phone call away.