Florida Alimony Reform 2021 is dead after the Legislative Session ended last Friday. The House Speaker and the Senate President stood together in the Capitol rotunda to mark the adjournment of the Legislative Session with the famous dropping of the hanky known as as “sine die”. The alimony reform bill was absent.
Alimony Reform 2021
Florida House Bill 1559 would have done several things to reform Florida alimony, and beyond. First, it prohibited permanent alimony unless expressly agreed to by the parties.
The bill required a court to prioritize bridge-the-gap alimony first, followed by rehabilitative and durational alimony, respectively. The bill removes any presumption for alimony based upon how long the marriage was, and placed caps on the length and amount of certain alimony awards.
The also bill created a rebuttable presumption that both parties will have a lower standard of living after divorce than they enjoyed during the marriage. The bill authorized an award of durational alimony to exceed 50 percent of the length of the marriage in certain limited circumstances.
The bill prohibited an award of alimony if the obligor met certain requirements for retirement prior to the date the petition for divorce was filed unless the obligee would otherwise be left in a financially destitute situation. Also, the bill permitted the court to consider the reasonableness of an obligor’s voluntary retirement as a reason to terminate an alimony award.
The bill created a rebuttable presumption that equal time-sharing between parents, commonly referred to as “50/50 time-sharing,” is in the best interest of a child. Of course, this has nothing to do with alimony whatsoever, but under the bill, 50/50 timesharing would have become the default when determining time-sharing of children after divorce.
Finally, the bill allowed expressly provided for bifurcation of a divorce proceeding after 365 days has elapsed since the petition was filed, and authorizes the court to enter temporary orders on substantial issues until such issues can be ultimately decided.
I’ve written about subject of alimony in Florida. In every Florida dissolution of marriage case, the court can grant alimony to either party – husband or wife. Not many people realize there are several types of alimony in Florida: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or for the moment, permanent alimony.
Florida courts can also award a combination of alimony types in a divorce. Alimony awards are normally paid in periodic payments, but sometimes the payments can be in a lump sum or both lump sum and periodic payments.
In determining whether to award alimony or not, the court has to first decide as to whether a wife or a husband, has an actual need for alimony, and whether the other party has the ability to pay alimony.
Typically, courts consider any type of earned income or compensation — that is, income resulting from employment or other efforts — along with recurring passive income, such as dividends on your investments, in establishing the amount of support you will be responsible to pay.
In Florida, once a court determines there is a need and the income available to pay alimony – sometimes referred to as the ability to pay alimony – it has to decide the proper type and amount of alimony.
In doing so, the court considers several factors, some of which can include things like: the standard of living established during the marriage; the duration of the marriage, the age and the physical and emotional condition of each party and the financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.
A statewide group of divorced women, known as the First Wives Advocacy Group, once again defeated what has become a perennial proposal to end permanent alimony and mandate an equal-time sharing provision for children caught in divorce.
“We were the stay-at-home moms that gave to our children while our husbands built careers and now that I’m 61 they want to kick me to the curb and leave me penniless”.
Supporters of alimony reform argued that the system was broken and some form of a statewide standard is needed:
“Family court is the biggest casino in the state because we don’t know what is going to happen. There is no uniformity, no consistency, no foreseeable outcome. This will create an alimony formula.”
Former Gov. Rick Scott twice vetoed similar bills in a fight that dates at least to 2012. And this year, alimony reform died once again.
The Florida Politics article is here.