Several lawmakers in Florida’s legislature have introduced alimony legislation that paves the way for reform. Alimony is one of the first, and most debated, considerations in Florida divorce cases. Unfortunately, many perceptions of alimony are inaccurate or completely inapplicable. Like so many elements of divorce, there is not necessarily one standard for alimony that will apply to every couple. However, there are standard guidelines that provide the structure by which judges can determine an appropriate alimony award. However, many attorneys and lawmakers believe that the standard guidelines need to be reformed to ensure fairness and protect individuals from undue financial hardship.
Recently, lawmakers have proposed several laws, such as Senate Bill SB 718 and House Bill 231, designed to alter the provisions of current legislation. Specifically, the goal of the new legislation is to limit permanent alimony rather than keeping it as the “norm.” Legislators have indicated that the 2014 political year is not likely to bring about significant reform, but 2015 is looking positive. Legislators, lobbyists, attorneys, and advocates are pulling together resources to inspire change, including securing greater than 10,000 signatures on a petition for alimony reform.
It is important that anyone contemplating divorce or currently going through a divorce be mindful of the current law, and the possibility for change. If you have any questions or wish to learn more about alimony in Florida, contact a qualified Florida divorce lawyer today.
Current Florida Alimony Law
Alimony may be granted to either party in the divorce based on a variety of factors, such as whether either spouse needs maintenance and whether each spouse has the ability to pay maintenance. In order to determine the answers to these questions, the court considers the following factors:
- How long the couple has been married
- The age, physical, and emotional condition of each spouse
- What standard of living was established during the marriage
- The income and financial resources available to each spouse (this includes marital and individual property and assets)
- What the earning capacity is of each spouse, including level of education, training, and work history
- Marital contributions of each spouse, including child care, education, career building, and services
- The responsibilities of each spouse with regard to minor children
- Tax considerations for each spouse
There are four designations of alimony under Florida law, including durational, permanent, bridge-the-gap, and rehabilitative. The differences between them include:
- Durational alimony is awarded when permanent alimony is inapplicable. Durational alimony is designed to supplement the receiving spouse’s income for a short duration while the individual establishes financial independence. Durational alimony is immediately cancelled upon remarriage of the individual receiving alimony, or upon the death of either party.
- Permanent alimony is the most common form of alimony awarded in Florida. Permanent alimony is designed to meet the receiving spouse’s daily needs and necessities based on the standard of living established during the marriage. Permanent alimony is most often awarded when the spouses were married for a long duration, or where one spouse is unable to financially support him or herself.
- Bridge-the-gap alimony is similar to durational alimony, except that it identifies specific goals or needs. Bridge-the-gap alimony may not be awarded for a period greater than two years, and is cancelled immediately upon the remarriage of the individual receiving alimony, or the death of either party. Bridge-the-gap alimony is not modifiable.
- Rehabilitative alimony is designed to help an individual redevelop skills, obtain education, and acquire professional work experience required for them to be financially independent. Rehabilitative alimony requires a specific plan including defined goals and milestones. Rehabilitative alimony may be modified or terminated based on noncompliance or completion of the rehabilitative plan, or a significant change in circumstances.
Contact the Law Offices of James S. Cunha, P.A. if you have any questions about alimony. Our office helps clients in in a variety family law matters throughout Palm Beach, Broward, Martin and St. Lucie counties. You can reach us at (561) 429-3924 or via email at [email protected] to schedule your one hour consultation.