New Bill Could Change Florida Alimony Laws

One stressful and legally complicated aspect of divorce is alimony. Many see alimony as an old-fashioned vestige of divorce. Others see it as a necessary way to help an individual who made financial sacrifices to help the family during marriage. Individuals who are facing a divorce should become familiar with alimony laws in Florida.

A Change in Florida Alimony Law?

On May 1, 2013, Florida Governor Rick Scott vetoed Senate Bill 718, which would have changed several aspects of alimony law in Florida. As a Fox News article explains, alimony can currently continue indefinitely in Florida if warranted by the paying party’s and receiving party’s income and job prospects. SB 718 would have ended permanent alimony, making Florida the fifth state in the nation to do so. In addition to ending permanent alimony, the bill would also have set limits on the amount of alimony and the number of years it could continue after divorce. Governor Scott vetoed the bill because the alimony provisions would have applied retroactively, thus upsetting the financial expectations of many Floridians who currently receive alimony. However, if Florida lawmakers are able to override Governor Scott’s veto by a two-thirds vote in each house, then the provisions would become law.

Current Florida Alimony Laws:

Florida currently decides whether to award alimony based on the need of one party and the ability of the other to pay. If one of the former spouses has a financial need that the other can meet, the court decides how much alimony should be paid and for how long based on several factors identified in Florida’s alimony statute. The factors include the length of the marriage, the standard of living during the marriage, the earning capacities and educational levels of both parties, the parties’ responsibility for children from the marriage, and other factors necessary to do “equity and justice between the parties.”

There are several kinds of alimony that Florida law recognizes: (1) temporary alimony while the divorce is pending; (2) bridge-the-gap alimony, which helps a party adjust from married life to being single; (3) durational alimony, which cannot last longer than the period of the marriage; (4) rehabilitative alimony, which enables one party to receive financial assistance while going to school or acquiring vocational skills; and (5) permanent alimony. All forms of alimony, including permanent alimony, terminate upon the death of either party or when the receiving party remarries.

Either party can petition for a change or termination in rehabilitative or permanent alimony if there is a “substantial change in circumstances.” For example, if the paying spouse experiences an illness and needs more money to pay for medical bills, this might qualify as a substantial change in circumstances. Durational alimony can only be changed under “exceptional circumstances.” Bridge-the-gap alimony is not modifiable because it is usually very short in duration.

Alimony is one aspect of divorce that an experienced family law attorney can guide you through – be sure to contact us today!

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