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Alimony Reform in Florida

April 11, 2016

Join us for this podcast about possible changes in the Florida law surrounding alimony. In this session, host Leon Bloder speaks with attorneys Merideth Nagel and Stephanie Modica about what these changes could mean to the citizens of the great state of Florida.

 

Currently, the Court’s determination of an alimony award is factual and can vary widely from case-to-case. Generally speaking, an alimony award is based on need and ability to pay.

Florida Statutes Section 61.08 outlines the factors a court must consider in awarding alimony. Those factors are:

  • standard of living established during the marriage
  • duration of the marriage
  • age and physical and emotional condition of each party
  • financial resources of each party
  • earning capacity, educational levels, vocational skills and employability of the parties
  • contribution of each party to the marriage
  • responsibilities of each party with regard to any minor children
  • tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award
  • all sources of income available to either party
  • any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties

 

There are currently five types of alimony:

  • Temporary alimony is awarded to support a party during the pendency of a dissolution action and can be modified at any time.
  • Bridge-the-Gap alimony is awarded to assist a party during the transition from married life to single life and is not modifiable.
  • Rehabilitative alimony is awarded to help a party establish a capacity for self-support.
  • Durational alimony is awarded for a set period of time.
  • Permanent alimony is only terminated by the death or remarriage of the party receiving alimony and is awarded only in long-term or moderate-term marriages.

 

Generally, a change in circumstances is needed to modify a rehabilitative, durational and/or permanent alimony award. Alimony is also, generally, taxable to the recipient and deductible by the payor for tax purposes.

The alimony reform bill, which has currently passed both the House and Senate, makes considerable changes to how alimony is determined in Florida. Similar to how child support is calculated, the reform requires courts to use a formula to determine alimony awards. That formula is 0.015 times the number of years married, multiplied by the difference in gross income of the divorcing couple on the low end. On the high end, that multiplier number rises to 0.02. The range is designed to give judges some discretion. The duration of payments would be between 0.25 times the number of years married to 0.75 times the number of years married. It effectively abolishes permanent alimony.

For example, if one partner makes $100,000 a year and the other makes $10,000, and they were married for 10 years, the alimony payment would be between $13,500 and $18,000 a year. A judge can deviate from the formula, but must specifically delineate the reasons for doing so.

Additionally, the bill requires that time-sharing schedules start with a premise of an approximately equal amount of time with each parent. While the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar supports the alimony reform, they are not in favor of the time-sharing proposal.

The bill is set to apply only to divorces filed on or after October 1, 2016 and will not apply retroactively. However, it will apply retroactively to any modification sought.

Proponents of the bill argue that it will provide uniformity in alimony awards. Critics say that it disproportionately negatively affects women. The reform very clearly reduces judicial discretion. Governor Scott has yet to make a decision regarding the bill, though he vetoed a similar bill a few years ago.

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