The More Things Change The More They Stay The Same

Last month I wrote an article about the anticipated changes in the alimony laws in Florida. This is a movement that has been in progress for several years. In 2013 both the State House and State Senate overwhelmingly passed an Alimony Reform bill, which was vetoed by Governor Scott just before the end of the legislative session. Since 2014 was an election year, the issue was not addressed. This year however it was everyone’s expectations that a reform bill would in fact finally be passed. The State House passed their version of the bill, which would have ended Permanent Alimony in this state. In addition, there were other changes in the law including certain guidelines that could be followed in computing the amount of alimony that could be awarded. The State Senate however had their own version of alimony reform, the main difference being a provision which was included that would have changed the time sharing law to a presumptive 50-50 division of time. This was not adopted by the House and before a compromise could be reached, the State House of Representatives ended their session early in protest over a totally unrelated issue. This action by the House was never seen before and ultimately was ruled to be unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court. The ruling however did not change the outcome, since the session had already ended. The result being that once again an Alimony Reform bill, which was overwhelmingly approved, did not become law. It is anticipated that this issue will be back before the legislature in 2016.

In the meantime I thought it might be best to summarize the existing laws concerning alimony so there is no misunderstanding as to what was merely a proposal versus what is in fact existing law.

Florida lists several factors in determining whether alimony is appropriate. Some of these factors are :

The standard of living established during the marriage

The duration of the marriage

The financial resources of each party

The age and health of each party

If in fact based upon the above (as well as some other factors contained within the law), alimony is warranted, the issue than becomes what form of alimony?  There are several possibilities.  Each of the choices primarily depends on the length of marriage.  A  long term marriage is defined as a marriage of  17 years or more.  This results in a presumption of Permanent Alimony. Even with such a presumption, an award of permanent alimony is not automatic.  Marriage of less than 7 years is considered a short term marriage.  A short term marriage could result in “Bridge the Gap” alimony which is awarded to assist a party by providing support to allow the party to make a transition from being married to being single.

A marriage of greater than 7 years is considered a moderate term marriage and could result in an award of Durational Alimony. The purpose of Durational Alimony is to provide a party with economic assistance for a set period of time.

The above are just guidelines and there are in fact other factors which must be considered. As previously stated, the length of marriage is just one facto the Courts consider.  It is best to consult with an experienced family law attorney for a further explanation.  If you have any questions please feel free to contact my office for a free consultation.