Alimony Reform Fails in Florida Once Again

Date July 2015 - By Paige Carlos

When the Florida House elected in May to end their session three days early, they did so without addressing the contentious issue of alimony reform. By doing so the legislature declined to join the growing number of states across the nation that have recognized the need to address their antiquated laws governing the disposition of alimony. However, for those who seek reform there is hope for the future, as the debate will likely continue the next time the legislature gathers.

The Senate version of the bill, which the House declined to ratify, would have removed much of the discretion typically afforded to trial judges in determining an award for alimony. The bill would have replaced that discretion with default statutory formulas tailored to varying circumstances like the length of the marriage. Many have criticized the existing range of discretion for producing vastly different awards across cases with essentially similar facts. The resulting lack of predictability is one of the many things that have spurred the call for reform.

In addition to a more formulaic approach, the bill would have eliminated a form of alimony called permanent alimony. Currently, permanent alimony may be awarded to a spouse in a divorce after seventeen years of marriage. The purpose of such alimony was to provide for spouses, the majority of whom are women, who may have foregone employment opportunities while caring for the home or children of the marriage. However, this type of alimony can require spouses to make alimony payments for the rest of their lives. These life-long obligations can sometimes prevent divorced breadwinners from retiring, even in their old age. The legislature appeared to have struck a balance between the needs of those receiving alimony and those obligated to pay it, but the bill was ultimately sunk by another stipulation.

The deathblow to the bill came in the form of a provision providing for a 50-50 share of time with the children of the divorce. The votes in the House were split; with some representatives claiming the split was fair while others saying it would lead to increased litigation. The bill would also have required a judge who deviates from the 50-50 presumption to explicitly state the reasons for doing so.

Though the bill did not make it through the 2015 session, the issue of alimony reform will not be going away. The legal relationship existing between spouses has evolved significantly since the old-fashioned days of coverture and will undoubtedly continue to do so in the future. If you are contemplating divorce and believe you are entitled to support or that you may be obligated to make support payments, it is important to have an experienced attorney representing your best interests.

At NeJame Law our family law attorneys are standing by to assist you with any legal issues you may encounter. Please call (407) 500-0000, fill out our online form, or email us at attorney@NeJameLaw.com and we will contact you shortly. As always, we value your privacy and will keep any information strictly confidential.