Alimony Reform

Governor DeSantis recently championed historic changes to Florida’s alimony laws. For anyone divorced or considering divorce, these new rules stand to reshape financial results. Many are left wondering – what are the key changes? And what do they mean for me?

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

SIGNIFICANT CHANGES TO FLORIDA ALIMONY LAW Under the new alimony reform bill signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis, Florida has enacted some of the most dramatic changes to alimony in years. Here are some of the most notable changes to the Florida Statutes:

1. ELIMINATION OF PERMANENT ALIMONY

Florida has joined states like Massachusetts and Utah to eliminate “permanent alimony.” Under previous law, permanent alimony had no duration limit and only ended upon the death, remarriage of the receiving spouse, OR proof of a supportive relationship.

2. CAPS ON TERMS OF ALIMONY

Florida’s new law institutes caps on alimony terms for rehabilitative alimony and durational alimony:

  • Rehabilitative alimony is now capped at 5 years.
  • For marriages lasting 3 to 10 years, durational alimony can’t exceed 50% of the marriage’s length. From 10 to 20 years of marriage, alimony is capped at 60% of the marriage’s length. And for marriages over 20 years, alimony is limited to 75% of the marriage’s length. Marriages lasting less than 3 years are presumptively ineligible for durational alimony.

However, courts can exceed the term of durational alimony under certain circumstances, such as for recipients with mental or physical disabilities or those caring for a disabled child.

3. CAPS ON DURATIONAL ALIMONY PAYMENTS

Durational alimony paid to the recipient will be equal to the recipient’s financial need or a maximum of 35% of the difference in the obligor and obligee’s incomes, whichever value is less.

4. OTHER IMPORTANT CHANGES

In addition to the above changes, the reformed alimony laws include the following updates:

  • If the court determines that the payor must purchase a life insurance policy in order to secure the alimony award, the court is now required to provide its findings in writing supporting the special circumstances that led to this decision.
  • If it is found that the alimony recipient is supporting or has supported another person who is not related to them in a “supportive relationship,” the court can reduce or terminate the alimony.
  • If the payor decides to retire, they can apply to have their alimony payments reduced or terminated no earlier than six months prior to retirement.

HOW ALIMONY REFORM AFFECTS YOUR CASE

A common question we hear is whether the new alimony law applies to existing divorces. It only takes effect for divorce cases pending or filed after July 1, 2023. So if you have a new case or an active case, this applies!

TYPES OF ALIMONY AVAILABLE IN FLORIDA

Few life events are as emotionally and financially turbulent as divorce. And in the chaos of paperwork, negotiations, and newly single life, you need some financial footing. Alimony can provide that stable ground.

Alimony, also called spousal support, offers monetary help from your former spouse during this transition. Depending on your situation, it can last a few months or many years. Here are the three main types of alimony in Florida.

Burden of Proof and Written Findings. The new law expressly states that the party seeking alimony has the burden of proving their need for alimony and the other party’s ability to pay. The law also requires the court to make written factual findings regarding the type, amount, and the duration of any alimony awarded. The same requirement for written findings applies to the denial of any award.

The Alimony Factors. Many of the factors that a court must consider when awarding alimony did not change with the new law. There are new vibes, however, that resonate through the factors pertaining to mental health and disabilities, the ability of a potential recipient to become self-supporting, and alimony as support for the needs and necessities of life. The factors are set forth below, with substantive new language in italics:

a. The duration of the marriage.

b. The standard of living established during the marriage and the anticipated needs and necessities of life for each party after the entry of the final judgment.

c. The age, and the physical, mental, and emotional condition of each party, including whether either party is physically or mentally disabled and the resulting impact on either the obligee’s ability to provide for his or her own needs or the obligor’s ability to pay alimony and whether such conditions are expected to be temporary or permanent.

d. The resources and income of each party, including the income generated from both nonmarital and the marital assets.

e. The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties, including the ability of either party to obtain the necessary skills or education to become self-supporting or to contribute to his or her self support prior to the termination of the support, maintenance, or alimony award.

f. The contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party.

g. The responsibilities each party will have with regard to any minor children whom the parties have in common, with special consideration given to the need to care for a child with a mental or physical disability.

h. Any other factor necessary for equity and justice between the parties, which shall be specifically identified in the written findings of fact. This may include a finding of a supportive relationship as provided for in s. 61.14(1)(b) or a reasonable retirement as provided for in s. 61.14(1)(c)1.

Types of Available Alimony. The alimony reform law limited the types of alimony available and made some modest changes to each type. The courts are permitted to award multiple types of alimony in combination.

BRIDGE-THE-GAP ALIMONY

Bridge the gap alimony remains available for up to 2 years to assist a party with legitimate, identifiable short terms needs in making the transition from being married to being single. Bridge the gap alimony is not modifiable in amount or duration.

REHABILITATIVE ALIMONY

If you need career training, education, or skills to attain financial independence, rehabilitative alimony is for you. Rehabilitative alimony is available for up to 5 years to assist a party in redeveloping or acquiring skills or training necessary to establish the capacity for employment and self-support. Any award of rehabilitative alimony must still be supported by a specific and defined rehabilitative plan. Rehabilitative alimony may be modified or terminated if there is a substantial change in circumstances, for non-compliance with the rehabilitative plan, or for completion of the rehabilitative plan.

DURATIONAL ALIMONY

Durational alimony offers income for a set duration dependent upon the length of the marriage. Under the new bill, short-term marriages are those lasting under 10 years, from 10 – 20 years for moderate length, and a long-term marriage is one that lasts 20+ years. Durational alimony aims to provide economic assistance for a set period of time. It accounts for the commitments and contributions within the marriage.

While judges ultimately decide alimony, understanding the purpose behind each type will strengthen your case. With the right knowledge and support, you can find your feet and take the next step into a secure financial future.

Temporary Alimony. The new alimony statute expressly includes temporary alimony as a recognized form of alimony. Two recent cases out of Florida’s First District Court of Appeals call into question the constitutionality of awarding a spouse temporary alimony retroactive to the date of filing the divorce case. See, e.g., Guimbellot v. Guimbellot, 353 So. 3d 75 (Fla. 1st DCA 2022). The practice of awarding temporary and retroactive temporary alimony has existed for decades. The new statute provides clarity concerning authority to award temporary alimony but does not clearly put to rest the issue of retroactive awards. Retroactive awards allow the court to provide alimony where a spouse should have provided temporary alimony during the case and failed to do so.

Term of Durational Alimony. Limits are set on the term of durational alimony awarded based on the length of the marriage. The classifications are set as rebuttable presumptions to allow for lengthy separations, long engagements, and other fact patterns that might justify a deviation from the fixed time constraints. The classifications of marriages and limits on duration of alimony is set forth below:

a. For marriages lasting less than 3 years, no durational alimony is allowed.

b. For “short term” marriages (lasting 3 to 10 years), the duration of any award cannot exceed 50% of the length of the marriage.

c. For “moderate term” marriages (lasting 10 to 20 years), the duration of any award cannot exceed 60% of the length of the marriage.

d. For “long-term” marriages (lasting more than 20 years), the duration of any award cannot exceed 75% of the length of the marriage.

Analysis and Conclusion. Florida’s Alimony Reform Bill does not provide everything that alimony reform advocates might have hoped. It does bring to an end to routine awards of permanent alimony. The law sets rational limits on the amount and duration of alimony awards. It provides a statutory right to seek modification of alimony on retirement. The Alimony Reform Bill also expands the concept of a supportive relationship.

LET OUR FLORIDA DIVORCE ATTORNEYS HELP WITH YOUR ALIMONY CASE

At Sparrow & Fairchild, we have extensive experience guiding clients through complex divorces and fighting for favorable alimony outcomes. Our Florida divorce attorneys offer strategic guidance based on representing numerous local clients just like you.

Our Team at Sparrow & Fairchild stays on top of every change to alimony laws so we can vigorously protect your interests. Whether paying or receiving alimony, we create a tailored legal strategy to secure you the most just settlement or court award.

To learn more about how our compassionate legal team can assist with your alimony case, contact Sparrow & Fairchild today to and schedule an appointment – https://sparrowandfairchild.cliogrow.com

Our knowledgeable divorce and alimony attorneys are here to answer your questions, explain your options, and devise an effective plan to safeguard your future.