The Unintended Consequences of Sweeping Alimony Reforms
The push for alimony “reform” is happening across our nation, including in Florida, which has had at least one failed attempt to pass legislation on the subject. In 2013 the Florida legislature passed an alimony reform bill thanks to strong bipartisan support in both houses on the matter, but which was fiercely opposed by the Family Law Section of The Florida Bar. To everyone’s surprise, when the law reached the governor Rick Scott’s desk it was vetoed.
If you or someone you know is facing divorce and has questions about alimony, or is seeking to modify current alimony, contact a seasoned Orlando alimony attorney right away to learn about your rights and obligations under Florida law.
Florida’s Unsuccessful Push for Alimony Reform
Had the 2013 bill, known as the Alimony Reform Law, passed, it would have done the following:
- ended permanent alimony;
- made it easier for an ex or former spouse to lower or terminate alimony payments upon retirement; and
- capped alimony awards based upon the length of marriage and a person’s income.
Furthermore, the bill contained a retroactivity component. After governor Scott’s veto, lawmakers went back and have once again made an attempt at alimony reform. There was not legislative action on the topic in 2014; however, in 2015 an Alimony Reform Bill was proposed. This time, the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar worked closely with legislators to create a new statute to amend alimony laws in a more fair and equitable manner than the 2013 bill proposed. While the legislative session has ended without success of the newly proposed bill, what cannot be disputed is that the push for alimony reform is here to stay.
Alimony Reform Returns in 2016
Although the bill has yet to pass, alimony reform is expected to come up again at the next legislative session, and several groups – including UniteWomen.org FL – are opposing the law. Some of the key provisions of the bill the legislature attempted to pass include:
- Duration of Alimony: the bill eliminated permanent periodic alimony (long-term marriages) and current guideline brackets (based on the years of marriage), instead proposing a formula to establish the duration of alimony based on a multiplier used along with the years of marriage; generally no alimony would be given in marriages that lasted less than two years.
- Amount of alimony: instead of the current method of basing the amount on the receiver’s need and the payor’s ability to pay, there would be an upper and lower amount of alimony based on the number of years of marriage and the difference in gross income of the parties. Child support and alimony could not be more than a combined 55 percent of the payor’s net income.
- Definition of Income and Underemployment: the bill requested the court to determine income at least at minimum wage, including disability income, personal use of business expenditures and workers’ compensation payments. If retirement money was not taken out prior to retirement age, this income would not be counted. Potential income would also be taken into account.
- Standard of Living: unlike the current law, which aims to maintain the marital standard of living after divorce, the proposal recognized the standard of living for two households to be lower than that for one.
Alimony Help in Orlando
While alimony reform may still be on the horizon, many Florida spouses may be facing issues related to spousal support immediately. And if you find yourself with questions about alimony, or needing an advocate on your behalf reach out to attorney Steve W. Marsee for help.
Attorney Steve W. Marsee assists spouses in reaching alimony agreements that are reasonable for all parties involved. Do not try to navigate this often emotionally sensitive time in life through complicated state family law, especially when reforms are likely in the near future. With decades of experience servicing the families of greater Orlando and throughout the state of Florida, the legal professionals at Steve W. Marsee, P.A. can help guide you through this process. Call 407-521-7171 today for your initial case evaluation.