Permanent Alimony May Be Coming to an End in Florida
Under current law, an alimony award can extend on for years, even decades. Such an award is called “permanent alimony.”
“I’m 64-years-old and have been paying 15 years on a 13 year marriage. My ex-husband, who does not work, receives 65% of what I earn and I receive 35% of what I earn, after 12 years of litigation!” said Tari MacMillan, someone who has been paying alimony to her ex-husband, during a hearing before the Florida Senate Appropriations Committee.
The Florida legislature took notice. House Bill 943 included provisions eliminating permanent alimony and implementing dramatic reforms to alimony law in the state. The state House of Representatives passed a version of the bill with a 93-22 vote, according to globenewswire.com.
What’s Inside the Bill?
The reform bill includes guidelines that set presumptive alimony amounts and presumptive durations for how long alimony would need to be paid. The formula includes a calculation based on the number of years of marriage and the difference between the monthly gross incomes of both divorcing spouses. Under the bill, the court would also have the discretion of considering several factors to determine the alimony amount and duration, including:
– the income and financial resources of the alimony recipient;
– the income and financial resources of the alimony payor;
– the standard of living that both parties had during the course of the marriage;
– the employability of both parties;
– the need for educational or vocational training for one, or both parties, to reasonably support themselves;
– the earning potential of both parties, determined by past performance;
– whether one, or both, parties had to forego educational or employment opportunities during the marriage;
– whether marital assets have been depleted;
– whether temporary alimony was awarded and the amount;
– the age, mental, and physical health of both parties;
– contributions made during the marriage; and
– any other factors that should be considered in order to bring about a “just and equitable result.
As you can see, the court is given rather wide latitude in determining the amount and duration of alimony under the new law.
Thomas Sasser, a member of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar, spoke before the committee and said, “This is something the Florida Law Section supports. This has been a product of compromise and balance,” according to an article in the Sun-Sentinel.
Despite what appeared to be strong support for these reforms, the reform bill actually failed to become law when the House of Representatives ended their session on April 28, 2015. The House still needed to pass a final version of the bill, since there was a competing version from the Florida State Senate. The two chambers could not reach an amicable agreement. The Florida legislature is set to reconvene for a special session in June 2015, but there is no guarantee that the legislature will take up the alimony reform bill during that time.
What’s the Hang Up?
There are different versions of the alimony reform bill floating around. A key disagreement between the state House of Representatives and the Senate is legislative language about equal time-sharing provisions if the divorcing parties have minor children. The language created a presumption that equal time sharing by both parents is in the best interest of the child, or children. The House of Representatives argued that such a presumption would create “confusion” in the courts and that each case should be decided based on the facts of that specific case.
Reform Appears Likely in the Future
Despite the stumbling block hit recently, it appears some type of alimony reform will get passed in the foreseeable future. If you have questions about alimony in Fort Lauderdale, reach out to experienced family law attorney Vanessa L. Prieto for help.