Proposed Alimony Revision Legislation in Florida
Florida legislation currently creates a presumption of permanent alimony for long-term marriages, while simultaneously creating a presumption against permanent alimony in short-term marriages. This legislation has drawn the attention of numerous family law attorneys, legislators, and members of the public. In the summer of the 2013, the Florida legislature attempted to revise the current alimony laws but with no success – the bill did not become law. The proposed changes are likely to be heard again during the next legislative session.Permanent AlimonyPermanent alimony is exactly what it sounds like: upon dissolution of a marriage, one spouse pays alimony to the other spouse for the rest of their natural life, or until the other spouse dies – whichever comes first. Permanent alimony also terminates when the receiving spouse remarries, but many opt for cohabiting with a new lover, rather than re-marrying, so they can continue to receive payments. A paying spouse can seek an award modification or termination if able to present evidence of a substantial change in their circumstances.
Current Alimony Law
Title VI, Chapter 61, Section 8 of the current Florida Statute provides that permanent alimony may be awarded for the needs and necessities of life as they were established during the marriage of the parties. In Florida, the award of alimony is dependent upon the duration of the marriage. A marriage of less than 7 years is considered short-term, a duration of 7-17 years is considered medium-term, and a marriage that lasts 17 years or more is considered long-term. Florida law provides that permanent alimony is presumed in long-term marriages, but not in short-term marriages. The court can also award durational (rather than permanent) alimony that can last up to the length of the marriage.
Proposed Alimony Law
The proposed law changes the duration of marriage requirement. For example, the proposed law request the following changes regarding duration of marriage: A short-term marriage would be considered less than 11 years, medium-term would be 11-20 years, while a long-term marriage would be over 20 years. Furthermore, the proposed law would create a rebuttable presumption against any form of alimony in short-term marriages, so this means that there can be alimony awarded in a short term marriage; however, the spouse in need of the alimony would have to prove a need and that the other spouse has the ability to pay it. There would continue to be a presumption in favor of a form of alimony in long-term marriages; however, and most notably, permanent alimony would be completely eliminated. This means that in a long-term marriage the spouse from whom alimony is requested would have to prove that he or she does not have the ability to pay alimony or that the other spouse does not have the need for the alimony.
There is no presumption in favor of alimony for either party in a medium-term marriage. Rather the court has the discretion to determine and award a monthly alimony amount, but the award cannot exceed 30% of the spouse’s gross income — a new guideline incorporated in the proposed law (see below). The proposed law allows for an award of durational alimony with limitations. Durational alimony could be awarded up to half the duration of the marriage. Under exceptional circumstances, the court would have discretion to award more alimony, but most cases will fall under the parameters of the proposed law, so ideally this court discretion would be used at a minimum.
Proposed Law and Alimony Guidelines
Currently, the Florida Statute does not have strict guidelines pertaining to the amount and payment of alimony, compared to how it handles child support. The proposals then present the following limitation on the amount of alimony payments as it relates to the paying spouse: no more than 25% of the gross income for short-term marriages, no more than 35% of the gross income for medium-term marriages, and no more than 38% of the gross income for long-term marriages.
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