The Florida legislature has tabled alimony reform for the time being, most likely because of election-year politics, but the next session starts in January 2015. The 2013 reform bill that the legislature adopted angered many women’s groups, and Governor Rick Scott eventually vetoed that measure, essentially on a technicality. What is the current alimony law in the Sunshine State, and why do reformers want to change it?
Florida has a traditional alimony law which sets up four different categories of spousal support payments. The first two are designed to meet immediate needs, while the latter two are meant to equalize the standard of living between the divorcing spouses.
- Bridge the Gap: These short term payments can last up to two years, but they generally terminate when the divorce becomes final. The intent is to give the obligee spouse money to pay attorneys’ fees, moving expenses, daycare enrollment fees and other immediate needs.
- Rehabilitative: The next step up, at least in terms of payment length, should allow the obligee to finish a degree or re-enter the workforce through a lower-paying job. The recipient spouse must submit a plan for rehabilitation, which the judge must approve
- Durational: Durational alimony last for a set period of time, not to exceed the length of the marriage .
- Permanent: As the name implies, these payments continue perpetually. The award must generally be supported by clear and convincing evidence, and the judge must make an affirmative finding that no other form of alimony would suffice.
The amount, and sometimes the duration, of payments can be modified upon a substantial change in circumstance, the obligee’s remarriage and a few other events. The judge has essentially unlimited discretion in setting the amount, as long as the award is supported by the evidence.
Most reformers want to eliminate permanent alimony and reduce the judge’s discretion when setting the amount. Those who prefer the current system point out that permanent alimony is only available in extraordinary circumstances and that alimony, unlike child support, is very much a case-by-case matter. Even if a bill is introduced right away, it will take some time to reach the governor’s desk and may not be implemented until 2016.
Even if there is a reform bill, alimony will remain a fixture in some Central Florida divorce decrees. For a consultation with attorneys who help ensure that your divorce is fair, contact our office. Our main office is conveniently located in Orlando.