Florida Alimony Reform: R.I.P.

Alimony reform in Florida will have to wait. With 35 days left in the Legislative session, the bills are not getting a hearing in either the House or the Senate, meaning the alimony reform bills will likely die in committee.

Florida Alimony

In Florida, alimony is awarded to a spouse when there is a need for it, and the other spouse has the ability to pay for alimony. Alimony can take various forms.

For example, alimony can be awarded to “bridge the gap” between married and single life. This is usually a short term form of alimony, and in fact, can’t exceed two years.

Alimony can also be rehabilitative – to help a party in establishing the capacity for self-support by developing skills or credentials; or acquiring education, training, or work experience. The underlying goal is to get you into a position where you can take care of expenses without assistance.

Durational Alimony is awarded when permanent periodic alimony is inappropriate. The purpose of durational alimony is to provide you with economic assistance for a time after a short or moderate term marriage, or even long marriages, if there is no ongoing need for support on a permanent basis.

Permanent Alimony is awarded to provide for your needs and necessities of life as they were established during your marriage, if you lack the financial ability to meet your needs and necessities of life following a divorce. However, a court has to find that there is no other form of alimony that would be fair and reasonable.

Although people often think of alimony as paid on a monthly basis, it can be awarded in a lump sum or be a combination of the two. In making a determination of whether or not to award alimony, the court may consider non-monetary factors.

Alimony Reform

Alimony reform is a nationwide phenomenon. A few states have already limited alimony, especially in cases where the marriage is less than 20 years.

Florida is not alone in moving for alimony reform. Currently, there are two bills in Florida trying to be passed to amend our alimony statute. However, many state bills, like Florida’s, are in progress, or are constantly evolving.

Unlike child support, which is common when a divorcing couple has kids, alimony awards have always been very rare, going from about 25% of cases in the 1960s to about 10% today. In one study of Wisconsin cases, it was only 8.6%.

Florida’s Alimony Reform Bill

This year’s bills would have provided judges with a set of guidelines for calculating alimony, and would also have provided judges and lawyers reasons to deviate from the proposed alimony guidelines in special cases.

I wrote about the failure of the alimony reform bills before. First, in 2015, when the Florida House of Representatives made a surprising end of their session, killing all bills.

Last year, Governor Scott vetoed a similar bill, but last year’s bill had a major difference. Last year’s bill added a provision that made equal timesharing a presumption in every case. Because of the equal timesharing presumption, the governor vetoed last year’s bill.

Withering on the Vine

For people who oppose alimony reform, there is good news: the bills are dead for the year. Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, the Naples Republican who’s carrying the Senate version (SB 412), this week said the chair of its first committee of reference refused to hear the alimony bill.

“Chairman Garcia determined that he was not interested in hearing it and I respect that decision,” Passidomo said. “I don’t think leadership weighed in on it.”

Sen. Passidomo also noted that the House version of the bill (HB 283), sponsored by Lakeland Republican state Rep. Colleen Burton, has also not gotten a hearing. Given that the House subcommittees are wrapping up work this week, that virtually dooms the legislation there.

The Florida Politics article is available here.