Once again, the Florida Legislature is working on its annual bill to modify alimony and timesharing in the state. There are two bills moving forward, one in the Florida Senate, which is Senate bill S.B. 1796 and in the Florida House of Representatives there is House bill, H.B. 1395. Alimony reform has been teased annually for about the past ten years now, but no bill has ever been signed into law.
Unlike previous years, however, it looks like this bill has a good chance of becoming law. Former Governor Rick Scott vetoed similar legislation twice when he was in office, most recently in 2016, but that is as close as the issue has come to becoming law. The current form of legislation is endorsed by the Family Law section of the Florida Bar, which was not the case regarding the previous versions of this bill, so it may be the extra support needed to pass the bill this year. There has been no indication from Governor DeSantis regarding his position on the bills.
Drastic Re-Write of Existing Alimony Law
Alimony reform is a contentious issue, no doubt about it, and this proposed legislation would drastically re-write existing Florida law on alimony. Proposals ready for both the Florida Senate and House of Representatives would eliminate permanent alimony completely and instead rely on durational alimony, rehabilitative and bridge the gap alimony. Payments over time would be calculated based on the parties’ respective net incomes and the length of the marriage.
Length of Marriage
The bills would change a short-term marriage to one of “fewer than 10 years,” rather than the current seven years. A moderate-term marriage would be between 10 and 20 years not the current seven to 17 years. A long-term marriage would be a marriage lasting 20 years or longer, rather than 17 years or more. A table is presented contrasting the new versus the old below.
|Current Law||Proposed Law|
|Short Term Marriage = 7 years or less||Short Term Marriage = less than 10 years|
|Moderate Term Marriage = 7 to 17 years||Moderate Term Marriage = 10 to 20 years|
|Long Term Marriage = 17 years or more||Long Term Marriage = more than 20 years|
Lengths of Marriage for Proposed Florida Alimony Law
Using these new definitions of marriage lengths, alimony would be set based upon the length of a marriage. The length of the payments would be determined by law according to the table below.
|Length of Marriage||Length of Payments|
|0-3 Years||Not available|
|4-10 Years||50% of the length of the marriage|
|10-20 Years||60% of the length of the marriage|
|Over 20 Years||75% of the length of the marriage|
Length of Payments under Proposed Florida Alimony Law
Permanent alimony would be abolished. Durational alimony would be used instead but is only available for marriages lasting 3 years or longer. Spouses who have been married for less than three years may still recover “bridge-the-gap alimony,” which covers payments to a spouse for up to two years. Such alimony is terminated if someone remarries or dies before the set time completes.
The bills would allow the court to extend the length of the payments above if either party is mentally or physically disabled or is a full-time caregiver for a disabled child. In such cases alimony may be extended.
Amount of Alimony Payment
The amount of any alimony payment would be capped at “the amount determined to be the obligee’s reasonable need or an amount not to exceed 35 percent of the difference between the parties’ net incomes, whichever is less,” according to S.B. 1796, the Florida Senate’s version.
Maximum Alimony Payments under Proposed Alimony Law
- The receiving party’s reasonable need, or
- 35% of the difference between spouses’ net income,
- Whichever is less
Maximum Alimony Payments
Using the information above, calculating alimony becomes a fairly straight-forward mathematical calculation.
Sponsors of the bills stress that the proposals will reduce litigation by providing “consistent” and “predictable” results. Opponents of the bill argue that the drastic change takes away the trial court’s discretion to do equity and will unfairly punish stay at home spouses in long-term marriages, who typically lack an employment history and ability to earn income compared to their spouse.
Reduction of Alimony at Retirement
The measure would create a “wind-down” period that would, in certain circumstances, permit a retiring spouse, after providing a formal notice, to reduce or eliminate their alimony payments when they retire. The spouse must actually retire and show that their income upon retirement is reduced by 50% or more.
Changes to Rehabilitative Alimony
Rehabilitative alimony is awarded to assist one party in transitioning from married to single by improving their ability to start a career and support themselves following the end of a marriage. It is intended to cover the expenses of either redeveloping previous skills or credentials, or to acquire new education, training or work experience to gain new employment skills or credentials.
To award rehabilitative alimony, one spouse has to present a plan of rehabilitation. The maximum length to complete the plan would be limited to five years, or as soon as it’s competed, whichever is sooner. A plan could include payment for the costs of education to attend college or vocational or trade school to enable a spouse to start or continue a career.
Consult with an Experienced Orlando Alimony Lawyer
Contact the Spence Law Firm if you have questions about your alimony case and discuss any questions you have during a free consultation.