Alimony reform could be on the way for Florida

Florida lawmakers are attempting to pass a bill that would overhaul how alimony is calculated.

State lawmakers in Florida are making another attempt - after two previous ones failed - to reform the state's alimony laws, according to the Sun Sentinel. A bill that recently passed its first House panel vote would eliminate most current forms of alimony, including permanent alimony, in favor of a system that is based primarily on the length of a marriage along with a few other factors. While a number of states in recent years have passed similar reforms, critics of the proposal say it will unfairly disadvantage spouses who give up pursuing a career so that they can raise their children.

End of permanent alimony

House Bill 455, which recently passed a key vote in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee, would eliminate the different categories of alimony, dubbed bridge-the-gap, durational, rehabilitative, and permanent alimony, in favor of a formula that provides a range for standard lengths and amounts of alimony. If passed, the bill would also redefine short-term, mid-term, and long-term marriages, terms that are used to calculate alimony amounts.

Specifically, alimony would be calculated based on a combination of the marriage's length and the discrepancy in income between the two spouses. Generally speaking, the longer a marriage lasts and the greater the difference between the two spouses' incomes, then the higher the alimony payments will be. Additionally, the length of time for which alimony would have to be paid, which would also be linked to the length of the marriage, would also be capped, thus doing away with permanent, or lifetime, alimony.

Growing debate

The debate around reforming alimony is not new in Florida. A similar measure failed earlier this year and a reform bill that passed the House and Senate two years ago was vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott due to the fact that the measure would have applied retroactively.

While supporters of alimony reform claim that permanent alimony is unfair because it forces them to pay money to someone who they no longer love , critics have pointed out that there could be unintended consequences of passing new alimony rules. The main concern is for spouses who are in long-term marriages. Those spouses, who may have chosen to be stay-at-home parents while the other spouse works, often find that their job prospects are severely limited if they divorce later in life. For such people, critics of alimony reform contend, permanent alimony is a lifeline that helps ensure one spouse is not unduly disadvantaged because he or she sacrificed a career for the sake of his or her family.

Divorce law

Alimony is just one issue that can cause considerable consternation during divorce negotiations. Issues decided during a divorce, such as alimony, property division, and child custody, can impact both spouses for years to come. Anybody who is going through a divorce should have a divorce attorney on their side who will fight for his or her client's best interests.