Attorney Jonathan Simon was featured on Family Law Talk with Kirk Stange discussing alimony reform in Florida. You can listen to the segment here:
In the early summer of 2013, the Florida Legislature undertook a massive overhaul to the existing alimony statute. For reasons discussed below, the bill did not end up becoming law. The proposed changes, however, are expected to be revisited during the next Legislative session and it is likely that the alimony statute will be changed in at least some regard.
The first major change that was proposed was changing the definitions of short-, medium- and long-term marriages. Currently, a marriage of less than 7 years is considered short, a duration of 7-17 years is considered medium and a 17 year and over duration is considered long term. The current statute creates a presumption in favor of permanent alimony for long-term marriages and a presumption against permanent alimony in short-term marriages. The proposed bill would change the definitions to reflect that a marriage of up to 11 years would be considered short term, 11 to 20 would be considered medium and 21 years and over would be considered long term. The proposed statute creates a presumption against any form of alimony in short-term marriages and a presumption in favor of alimony for long-term marriages. The proposed statute also eliminates all permanent alimony.
The second major change proposed was the limitation on the amount of years that a Court could potentially award alimony. Under the current statute, the Court can order permanent alimony, but can also award durational alimony, which could last up to the length of the marriage. The proposed bill abolishes permanent alimony and sets a limitation on the number of years to equal one half of the length of the marriage. The Court would have discretion is exceptional circumstances to award more, but it is likely that most cases would fall under this cap.
The third major change proposed was the establishment of alimony "guidelines." Currently, Florida Statutes contain strict guidelines for the payment of child support, but are silent as to the appropriate amount of alimony for a given case. The proposed law would limit alimony in short-term marriages to 25% of gross income of the paying spouse; 35% of gross income in medium-term marriages and 38% of gross income in long-term marriages. This is especially interesting as it is the first time the Legislature has taken serious steps toward establishing guidelines for the payment of alimony.
While the bill did not eventually become law, the proposed changes to the alimony statute are likely to be implemented during the next Legislative session with some changes. Most importantly, the proposed bill will likely not include a provision allowing the new law to apply retroactively. The retroactive application was a major stumbling block toward the enactment of the reform. Another issue with the proposed bill was that it violated the single subject rule by including provisions relating to timesharing. Again, this issue is likely to also be undertaken again by the Legislature in its next session. The proposed bill included a provision that would create a presumption of 50/50 timesharing for parents. This would drastically change the current statutory scheme that requires the court to consider over 20 factors before making a timesharing decision.
In sum, although the law remained unchanged after the last session, it is very likely that some changes to the alimony and timesharing statute will occur next year. If you are a potential family law litigant with issues in these two or other areas, please contact my office to schedule a free consultation so that we can discuss the effect of these potential changes on your case. Please visit us at The Orlando Family Firm for more information about our firm and full contact information.
Disclaimer: This answer was provided by an attorney selected to Super Lawyers, and is intended to be an educated opinion only. This answer should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.
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