New alimony reforms in Florida should be an example for other states
By Jeffery M. Leving
The reasons couples get divorced are usually complex and have a lot of nuance, yet too many states have a simple, one-size-fits all mentality when it comes to alimony.
However, the State of Florida just signed into law an alimony reform bill that went into effect July 1st that better addresses the complexities that go along with divorce and should be used as a model by other states.
The changes apply to initial petitions for dissolution of marriage that are filed or pending on July 1, 2023 and to certain supplemental petitions for modification of alimony.
The main change is that the law eliminates permanent alimony and in its place, has created four types of alimony: temporary, bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative and durational alimony and depending on the case, courts may order it to be paid in a lump sum or as periodic payments.
Contrast this with a state like Illinois, which takes a more cookie-cutter approach to alimony.
In Illinois there are two types of alimony, which that state calls “maintenance”: temporary, which is when a judge orders one spouse to pay temporary spousal support while the divorce process is underway and long-term spousal support, which has three categories: fixed term maintenance, indefinite maintenance and reviewable maintenance.
With the new law in Florida, courts also will be permitted to consider the adultery of either spouse and its resulting impact in determining the amount of alimony to award.
Courts in Florida will also be required to considered nine factors in determining alimony. The first of which is whether the party seeking support has an actual need for it and whether the other party has the ability to pay support. The burden of proof is on the party seeking support, and if and only if, the court determines that one of the parties has a need for support and that the other party has the ability to pay it, does the court then consider the eight other factors.
Among the eight remaining factors are the parties’ stand of living during the marriage and anticipated needs after the divorce is finalized; the duration of the marriage; the parties’ age and physical and mental condition; the income and resources of both parties; the earning capabilities of both parties; the responsibilities that each party will have in raising children that they have in common; and the last one being any other factor that the court deems relevant.
Additionally, the new law in Florida established what is called bridge-the-gap alimony which may be awarded to assist a party making the transition from married to single life and is intended to assist a party with identifiable, short-term needs that may not exceed two years. This is similar to Illinois’ temporary spousal support.
Another category of alimony created by the Florida law is rehabilitative alimony, which is something Illinois and other states do not yet have. Rehabilitative alimony is intended to provide education and training that will enable a party to become self-supporting or contribute to their own support and may not exceed a period of five years.
The last category created by the Florida law is durational alimony, which lasts for a set period of time. It may not exceed 50% of the length of a short term marriage, which the law defines as a marriage that lasts less than ten years; 60% of the length of a moderate-term marriage (a marriage of between 10 and 20 years); and 75% of the length of a long-term marriage (a marriage of 20 years or more).
The amount of durational alimony will be the amount that is required to meet the payee’s reasonable needs, or an amount that does not exceed 35% of the difference between the husband and wife’s net incomes, whichever amount is less.
The new Florida law also addresses actions for modification and authorizes the court to terminate or reduce an award of alimony when the payor has reached the normal retirement age and retires.
While I compared Illinois to Florida in this piece, I could have used many other states. Most states are in need of alimony reforms that would bring them more in line with the complexities of divorce and I urge legislators from every state to study the alimony reforms Florida has made and try to institute similar reforms in their own states.
Jeffery M. Leving is founder and president of the Law Offices of Jeffery M. Leving Ltd., and is an advocate for the rights of fathers. He is the author of “Fathers’ Rights,” “Divorce Wars” and “How to be a Good Divorced Dad.” Leving can be found on Twitter and Instagram @Dadsrights
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