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Slowly Moving Towards Alimony Reform

Some legislators have been fighting for alimony reform in Florida for years.  In fact, alimony reform has been on the state legislature’s plate since 2012 or even earlier.  Last year, a bill passed the Florida House of Representatives but never reached the Senate for voting.  The year before, a reform bill reached Governor Rick Scott’s desk, and the governor vetoed the bill, citing concerns regarding retroactivity.  The fight in Tallahassee, among other things, surrounds eliminating permanent alimony.  Florida is one of the last states in the United States to award permanent alimony, and some believe it is time for that to end.

Currently, the bill to eliminate permanent alimony is working its way through the state House of Representatives, and replaces permanent alimony with the institution of a mathematical formula intended to standardize alimony awards, reduce bias, and incorporate financial and mathematical information regarding standards of living and the costs of necessities into the alimony determination process.  The bill will have to pass through one final committee before it leaves the House and goes to the state Senate for a full vote.

The bill also differs from its predecessors in a key way: legislators removed the retroactivity clause in the bill to which the governor objected and replaced it with a new requirement, one stating that judges must begin child custody determinations with the assumption that the equal time-sharing of children by each parent is in the best interests of the children.  While its inclusion when the bill first appeared caused a great deal of debate regarding whether or how the provision would affect families for which 50/50 timesharing was not a good option, the clause is now receiving less attention than it was previously, and debate has largely refocused on the elimination of permanent alimony.

On one side, advocates for child-rearers, especially those concerned about older women who left the workforce long ago to raise children, worry about those individuals’ reliance on alimony as an equitable solution when divorcees can no longer feasibly reenter the workforce.  However, proponents of the elimination of permanent alimony complain that it is not economically viable for alimony payers to subsidize someone else’s life indefinitely while still attempting to invest, provide for children, and save for retirement.

The proposed mathematical formula would base payments on the following: 0.015 multiplied by the number of years married, times the difference in gross income of the divorcing couple, would constitute the low end of the alimony spectrum.  Replacing the 0.015 multiplier with 0.02 would provide the higher end.  For example, if one partner makes $70,000 per year and the other makes $50,000 per year and the couple was married for ten years, the alimony payment would be between $3,000 and $4,000, and the exact payment would be within a judge’s discretion.  The bill also includes provisions for making modifications to alimony orders if the financial situation of one or both spouses changes during the payment period.

Contact Our Attorneys for Assistance

If you are approaching an alimony negotiation, a divorce, or a separation, navigate the process and stay abreast of the changes in alimony law by consulting an attorney.  At Schwartz | White, our experienced Boca Raton family lawyers can assist you.  Call 561-391-9943 today for a consultation.

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