Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that will reform Florida alimony in 2023. The Florida alimony reform bill was signed after three vetoes of similar bills and a decade of legislative battles. But this year things changed. The 2023 proposal got the support of The Florida Bar Family Law Section, which had fought against poorly worded alimony reform bills in the past.
I’ve written about alimony in Florida before. In every Florida divorce case, the court can grant alimony to either party. Not many people realize there are several types of alimony in Florida: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, and before July 1st, 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 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.
Florida Alimony Reform
Last week the governor signed into law CS/SB 1416, which makes significant changes to alimony awards. The most talked about feature of the new law is that permanent alimony, which is sometimes called lifetime alimony, is eliminated.
The elimination of permanent alimony leaves only bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, and durational forms of alimony. However, rehabilitative alimony has now been limited to five years. Additionally, durational alimony is now not awardable to people married for less than three years. But, if a couple has been married 20 years or longer, they will be eligible to receive payments for up to 75 percent of the length of the marriage.
Another big change is the new law’s limits on the amount of durational alimony. Durational alimony is now calculated to be the lesser of the recipient spouse’s reasonable need or no more than 35 percent of the difference between the parties’ net incomes.
Another change is in the area of supportive relationships. Courts reduce or terminate alimony in cases in which they find that a supportive relationship exists. The new law also places the burden on the payor of alimony to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that a relationship exists. Once proven, the burden shifts to the recipient spouse to prove by a preponderance of the evidence the court should not reduce or terminate alimony.
The new law also impacts modifications by codifying a 1992 Supreme Court decision that judges use as a guidepost when making decisions about retirement. If a payor of alimony wants to retire, he or she may apply for modification of the alimony award no sooner than 6 months prior to the planned retirement. The bill provides several factors courts have to consider in determining whether to modify or terminate alimony. The new law became effective July 1, 2023.
The new law is here.