Recently in Florida, there have been major proposal changes by the Senate concerning alimony support payments for divorcing couples. On February 8, 2013, a bill was introduced which would have amended the current laws in Florida and called for the elimination of permanent alimony awards in the state. Alimony is typically a monthly payment that is made to provide for the maintenance and support of a spouse after a divorce. For long-term marriages, alimony payments may be permanent in nature (until a material change in circumstances occurs).
On May 1, 2013, Governor Rick Scott vetoed Senate Bill 718 which contained retroactive provisions. The bill would have allowed parties to attempt to modify existing divorce agreements. Scott vetoed the bill, concerned that the retroactive provision could reopen thousands of divorce cases and disrupt many families’ financial stability.
The existing alimony laws in Florida provide judges with discretion in determining permanent or durational awards for alimony. A permanent award is often provided when a marriage lasted 17 or more years. For moderate or short-term length marriages, Florida courts often provide durational alimony awards. The longer a marriage, the more likely an individual will qualify for permanent alimony.
In determining an alimony award in the state of Florida, the court will consider multiple factors. The court assesses the contribution each spouse has made to the marriage. This contribution may include the home-making or child-rearing services that each spouse provided. Additionally, the marital contribution may include that fact that one spouse sacrificed educational opportunities in order to support the other spouse’s career or education, further factoring into the court’s alimony determination.
Other important factors that Florida courts currently use to determine alimony awards include the economic circumstances and professional skills of the non-breadwinning spouse. If one spouse is unable to financially support him or herself, or does not have professional skills to obtain employment, the Florida courts may factor these circumstances into the alimony amount awarded.
Although the above factors are currently considered in alimony awards, it is apparent through bills like SB 718 that Florida lawmakers and other supporters of the bill are actively seeking legislation to alter such alimony awards. Many believe that these changes are not a matter of if, but when they will occur. Governor Scott opposed SB 718 due to the retroactive implications but did not appear to be against the general modification of current alimony legislation. It is in your best interest to stay informed and seek professional guidance if you believe you may be affected by new alimony legislation. For more information about how we might be able to help, please give us a call: 727-726-3600.