It’s been said laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made. If true, then it’s best you not read the two new Florida alimony reform bills recently introduced into the Florida House and Senate. For the unafraid, below are a few provisions of the House bill worth watching.
The Current Chorizo
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. As I have written before, 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 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.
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.
The House Hot Dog
Alimony reform is a nationwide phenomenon.
Currently, there are two bills in Florida trying to be passed to amend our alimony statute and impact other statutes. However, many state bills, like Florida’s, are in progress, or are constantly evolving.
This year’s two bills fundamentally change many family law statutes and cases. Briefly, what we consider to be long and short marriages would change. This is an important measuring stick, because the types of alimony granted can change depending on the duration of a marriage.
Right now, for purposes of determining alimony, there is a presumption that a short-term marriage is less than 7 years, a moderate-term marriage is greater than 7 years but less than 17 years, and a long-term marriage is 17 years or more.
Under the new House bill, a long-term marriage would be 20 years or more, a mid-term marriage would be more than 11 years but less than 20 years, and a short-term marriage would be a marriage of less than 11 years.
Another proposed change concerns the type of alimony. Right now, when a court determines the type and amount of alimony, the court weighs several factors, including, the standard of living, the age and the physical and emotional condition of the parties and sources of income available to pay alimony.
Under the new House bill, a trial court awarding alimony would have to prioritize an award of bridge-the-gap alimony, followed by rehabilitative alimony, over any other forms of alimony. Additionally, the new bill eliminates permanent alimony.
The Equal Time-Sharing Bratwurst
Florida has a public policy that each child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or divorce and tries to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing.
However, there is no presumption for or against the father or mother of the child or for or against any specific time-sharing schedule when creating or modifying a parenting plan of the child.
The new House bill would dramatically alter the law. The proposed bill would make it Florida law that equal time-sharing with a minor child by both parents is in the best interest of the child unless the court finds one of the stated reasons not to.
The House bill is available here.