Once again the Florida Legislature is hopeful of bringing an end to Permanent Alimony in Florida. This is the fourth (4th) such attempt in four years and it appears that this year it may not just make it to the Governor’s desk, but could receive his approval. In the past, the Governor vetoed the bill because it was to be applied retroactively. This year’s version removes the retroactive applicability, which for the client simply means in order for a spouse to terminate alimony, he or she will have to show a substantial change in circumstances and if granted it will terminate only as of the date the action is filed and not before!
The Senate has yet to join the House or pass an Alimony bill of their own, but it does not appear there is as much opposition to the bill as in the past. A long term marriage under the House bill would be defined as 20 years. If it becomes law, it will offer Judges a formula, a guideline, from which to order alimony. Judges will still have a certain amount of discretion to consider the particular facts of each case, but with a specific formula to calculate the amount. We attorneys will be better able to advise the client as to the potential outcome, at least with a bit more certainty than currently exists. The formula will be based upon a numerical factor times the number of years of marriage, multiplied by the difference between the parties gross incomes.
There would be no alimony at all for marriages less than two (2) years. Currently, if a disability occurred during those years, the Court could order some alimony.
This action is viewed by those paying alimony as fair and it is viewed by those receiving alimony as unfair. I don’t believe it will substantially impact the way divorces are litigated but it should give the client a more realistic view upon which to decide whether litigating the issue is in their best interest.
So for those spouses who may be at risk of paying Alimony, there is hope and for those spouses who would need Alimony, don’t panic! Regardless of the final bill, it is more likely than not,the Court will retain the discretion in certain cases to award alimony. I can’t imagine a bill that would leave a spouse of 30 years with no income and no employable skills out on the street.
Gail Linscott Silva, Esquire