Florida alimony reform awaiting governor’s approval

The die has been cast by Florida legislators lobbying for sweeping reform of the state's laws governing alimony awards. Despite past failures to even get such legislation out of committee, a proposal in early 2013 by Republican representative Rich Workman and other notable Florida Republicans has already been voted upon and passed by both the Senate and the House, and is currently awaiting either approval or veto by Governor Rick Scott.

The proposal

One of the most important aspects of this new law is that it would do away with permanent alimony awards, instead tying the length of the alimony award directly to the length of the marriage, and ending alimony payments altogether at retirement age regardless of how long the marriage itself lasted.

The proposed changes to the law would also tie the amount of alimony directly to the income of both the paying spouse and the recipient. Furthermore, it would - in most circumstances - prevent the added income of a subsequent marriage from being included in the paying spouse's income for purposes of calculating a spousal support award.

Disparate interpretations

Since the new law does proffer an end to permanent alimony, it has stirred up lively debate among politicians, legal pundits and advocacy groups, each of them in turn arguing the interpretation that best supports their position. An end to permanent alimony has been interpreted in disparate ways, including:

  • Advocating working through marital strife - the hope is that couples would, knowing that alimony has a finite length after the marriage ends, try harder to work out their problems and keep their marriage together instead of seeking a divorce
  • Leveling the playing field for men and women - since alimony has traditionally been paid for the most part by men, ending arduous awards theoretically puts men and women back on the same financial footing

Right now

For the time being, the new law is awaiting a signature from the governor and could still be vetoed, so the current statutes and precedential cases concerning alimony are controlling. Knowing the basics of how the family court system works and what factors judges look at when making spousal support determinations are key to presenting a valid, persuasive argument. Having an experienced family law attorney at your side can make the process of navigating the court system easier and can also make a huge difference in whether or not your petition for (or against) an alimony award is successful.