New Florida Law Eliminates Permanent Alimony
New law passed in Florida completely revamping alimony. The new law will apply to all cases pending as of July 1st. One of the stated goals of the overhaul is to reduce litigation. I believe that some provisions of the new law will have the opposite effect.
The bill eliminates permanent alimony. Florida was only one of seven states that allowed permanent alimony, so in some ways, this aligns us more with the majority view on this issue. I still think it may prove devastating for some spouses, in particular women who have forgone career to raise children.
The Four Types of Alimony
The law allows for four types of alimony: temporary, bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative and durational alimony. Courts may order alimony to be paid in a lump sum or as periodic payments. There can be no durational alimony awarded for a marriage lasting less than three years. The time period is measured from the date of marriage to the date of the filing of the petition. A durational award is limited in time by the length of the marriage.
A short-term marriage is defined as a marriage that lasts less than 10 years. A moderate-term marriage is a marriage that lasts between 10 and 20 years. A long-term marriage will now be considered to be a marriage that lasts 20 years or more. Durational alimony may not exceed 50% of the length of a short-term marriage, 60% of the length of a moderate-term marriage, and 75% of the length of a long-term marriage. An award of durational alimony may be extended under exceptional circumstances.
The amount of durational alimony will be the amount that is required to meet the payee’s reasonable needs, or an amount that does not exceed 35% of the difference between the husband and wife’s net incomes, whichever amount is less AND an alimony award may not leave the obligor with significantly less (whatever that means) net income than the net income of the obligee, unless there are exceptional circumstances.
Bridge-the-gap alimony may be awarded to assist a party in making the transition from married to single life. It is intended to assist a party with identifiable, short-term needs. The length of an award of bridge-the-gap alimony may not exceed 2 years.
Rehabilitative alimony is intended to provide education and training that will enable a party to become self-supporting or contribute to their own support. Under the new alimony reform legislation, an award of rehabilitative alimony may not exceed 5 years. A comprehensive rehabilitative plan is required to be awarded rehabilitative alimony.
The Eight Key Determining Factors in New Alimony Law
Courts will be required to consider eight factors in determining alimony:
- First, courts are to consider whether the party seeking support has an actual need for support and whether the other party has the ability to pay support. The party seeking support will have the burden to prove that he or she has a need for support and that the other party has the ability to pay support.
- The parties’ standard of living during the course of the marriage and the anticipated needs of both of the parties after a divorce is granted.
- The duration of the parties’ marriage.
- The parties’ age, physical and mental condition. Fourth, the income and resources of both parties and the income earned from marital and nonmarital assets.
- The earning capacities, educational levels and employability of the parties. Courts are to consider the ability of both of the parties to obtain the necessary skills or education to enable themselves to either contribute to their own support or become self-supporting.
- The contribution that each of the parties made to the marriage, including education, career building, homemaking and child care.
- The responsibilities that each of the parties will have in raising children that they have in common.
- Any other factor that courts of equity and justice should consider in making an alimony award. This may include a finding that a supportive relationship exists or that one of the parties may reasonably retire.
Modifications for Retirement & Alimony
In actions for modification, the court will be authorized to terminate or reduce an award of alimony when the payor has reached the normal retirement age. The normal retirement age will be considered to be the normal retirement age specified by the Social Security Administration, or the customary retirement age for the payor’s profession. The payor must actually retire or make demonstrable efforts to retire. Retirement must reduce the payor’s ability to pay. The court will look at the following ten factors in determining whether to reduce or terminate alimony:
- The age and health of the payor.
- The type of work performed by the payor.
- The customary age of retirement in the payor’s profession.
- The likelihood that the payor will return to work, and the payor’s motivation for retiring.
- The needs of the party receiving alimony and that recipient’s ability to contribute to his or her own needs.
- The impact that the termination or reduction of alimony would have on the payee.
- The parties’ assets before, during and after the dissolution of marriage, and whether either of the parties wastefully dissipated assets received at the time of the divorce.
- The income earned by the parties during and after the marriage.
- The retirement, pension and Social Security Benefits received by the parties after the marriage.
- The payor’s compliance with his or her alimony obligation.
A payor may file a Supplemental Petition for Modification six months prior to the date of retirement.
In what is sure to create more, not less, litigation, courts will be permitted to consider the adultery of either spouse and its resulting economic impact in determining the amount of alimony to award. Sadly, this change will allow family law litigators to continue to trade in humiliation and harassment of parties in the midst of a divorce to gain leverage. It also seems to me to vitiate or at least erode Florida’s no fault divorce law.