Last week, lawmakers from both the House and Senate filed bills to overhaul Florida’s alimony system. The Alimony Reform Bill — House version; HB 943 and Senate version; SB 1248 — would essentially end lifetime alimony by creating a formula that judges can use to determine alimony. The unprecedented measure would provide a predictable outcome with a start and end date to alimony and also gives judges the ability to use discretion in certain cases.
The duration of marriage and income difference between spouses would be a required consideration under the proposed legislation. Twenty years of marriage would be used in calculating the low end and high end for alimony outcome. Judges could also go outside the protocol in extreme cases.
Some highlights under both Bills:
- The changes would not be retroactive. The guidelines would apply to alimony arrangements crafted after the law is passed.
- In determining alimony, a judge would assess whether a spouse is capable of earning more money.
- A combined award of alimony and child support cannot constitute more than 55 percent of the payer’s net income.
- Second wives’/husbands’ income cannot be used to increase the amount of alimony payments.
- Alimony payments could not be bumped up if the payer’s salary increased.
The 2015 Alimony Reform Bill would require that alimony payments be reduced when the payer turns 62, to help aging payers who want to retire. Payers entering the retirement stage would be able to petition for the reduction or ending of alimony payments.
This isn’t the first time there’s been a push to radically change Florida’s alimony laws. In 2013, Governor Rick Scott vetoed a similar bill due to its retroactive effect. He red-lined the measure because of his concerns for those who were currently receiving and relying on their alimony payments.
Critics of the 2015 Bill say it is far more punishing to middle-aged and senior women than the 2013 version and is slanted in favor of the wealthy breadwinner in the arrangement.
Current Florida alimony law allows alimony to be reduced or eliminated when a recipient is living in a supportive relationship, however, it is often difficult to prove. The new Bill proposes that someone who is caught lying about cohabitation would have to return the amount of alimony they received since being accused and also pay attorneys’ fees.
If the Bill is passed, the divorce process in the state of Florida would likely move along at a faster pace. Lawyers and litigants could better predict the outcome of the judge’s determination since there would be a formula to follow. Florida may even see more mediated divorces and collaborative divorces with less litigation.
Both sides of the highly-contested alimony reform issue seem to favor the proposed Bill. The Florida Bar Family Law Section, which lobbied passionately against the measure in 2013, and Floridians for Alimony Reform, both said they support the plan. If approved, the new legislation would take effect October 1, 2015.
If you or someone you know is seeking legal guidance and representation from an experienced alimony attorney in South Florida, please contact Klein Law Group at 561-220-6659 or fill out the contact form on our website at www.kleinattorneys.com. We offer a free 30-minute consultation to discuss your individual case in family law, bankruptcy and real estate. Our offices are located in Boca Raton, West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.