Florida Alimony Reform Legislation is Making Its Way Through Committees

Florida alimony reform legislation is moving through the state’s Senate and House. The proposed bills — SB668 and HB455 — include measures to end permanent alimony and to encourage judges to grant 50-50 time-sharing custody. Alimony reform initiatives have been before Florida legislators since 2010, but have been stalled for various reasons.

Supporters of alimony reform feel changes are needed to provide fairness and to eliminate the law of one spouse paying alimony for life. However, opponents contend the changes would be unfair to women who give up careers to be stay-at-home home mothers.

The proposed legislation determines alimony payments upon a formula of marriage duration and income of both spouses. Alimony could be modified or stopped when incomes change, a recipient enters a “supportive relationship,” or the provider retires. Certain types of alimony would be eliminated under the reform: “bridge-the-gap,” “rehabilitative,” “durational,” and “permanent.” It would also change the definitions of what are now considered short-term, moderate-term and long-term marriages. Couples who have been married less than two years would not qualify for alimony, unless a judge makes an exception.

The 50-50 child custody provision is being met with many opponents, especially women with special-needs children and nursing mothers. Even though the proposed law gives a judge the allowance to make exceptions, these groups are concerned about losing custody when they are the parent experienced with taking care of the child’s unique needs.

If the new legislation makes it to Governor Rick Scott’s desk, supporters are optimistic it would be approved because it does not have a retroactive provision — the reason why he vetoed the measure in the past.

Florida senators will meet this week to hash out the time-sharing portion of the bill.

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