Controversial Alimony & Custody Bill Again Under Consideration in Florida
Florida legislators have once again introduced legislation (HB 843), which would end permanent alimony and create an automatic presumption that equal time-sharing is in the best interests of children in child custody cases; amongst making a number of other noteworthy changes in the area of family law. In the past, Governor Rick Scott vetoed the legislation both times that it passed through the legislature. However, there have been no indications as to whether Governor Ron DeSantis would do the same. As of late February, the bill was on the Judiciary Committee’s agenda.
What Alimony Can Be Awarded, Under What Circumstances
The proposed legislation does allow the court to grant bridge-the-gap, durational, or rehabilitative alimony, or a combination of these, but it mandates that priority be given to bridge-the-gap, followed by rehabilitative, over any other form. It only allows for permanent alimony to be granted when the parties enter into an agreement explicitly for permanent alimony and restricts the court in awarding a combination of forms of alimony “only to provide greater economic assistance in order to allow the recipient to achieve rehabilitation.” If the court does award one of these forms of alimony, it must provide written findings regarding the basis to do so, including the length of time it is awarding the alimony. Finally, it limits:
- Bridge-the-gap alimony to no more than two years, and dictates that it cannot be modified in amount or duration
- Rehabilitative alimony to no more than five years, or the limitations of durational alimony, whichever is shorter
- Durational alimony based upon a finding that a supportive relationship exists or existed between the obligee and someone else; determined based on the obligee’s reasonable need or 25 percent of the difference between the parties’ net incomes, whichever is less
Under the following circumstances, alimony cannot be ordered to be paid:
- By retired parties; unless the court determines that the needs and necessities for life for the party seeking alimony are not adequately provided for by nonmarital assets or the distribution of marital assets. Alimony awards may also be modified when the obligor reaches full retirement age
- To a party that has a net income that is equal to or more than the other party’s net income
Consideration of Adultery in Determining Alimony
While, previously, the court could consider the adultery of either spouse and any associated circumstances in determining alimony, the proposed bill would eliminate the ability for adultery of a spouse to serve as the court’s sole basis for denying alimony or awarding it (unless it contributed to a depletion of marital assets).
Factors Relevant to Determining Type & Amount of Alimony
The legislation also makes changes to several relevant factors related to determining the type and amount of alimony, including:
- The standard of living established: Instead of simply taking into account the standard of living established during the marriage, the legislation would require the court to look at the necessities and needs of each party after the marriage and take into account the presumption that both parties will have a lower standard of living after the marriage, unless overcome by a preponderance of the evidence
- Tax treatment and consequences of an alimony award: It removes consideration of the payment as a nontaxable, nondeductible payment
- Any factor necessary to do equity and justice: It only allows the court to consider factors necessary to do equity and justice if they are “specifically identified in the award with findings of factor justifying the application of such factor”
- Life insurance: Instead of the court being able to order a party to purchase or maintain a life insurance policy in order to protect an alimony award, it puts in place the ability for the court to order reimbursement for the cost of such a policy
- Removing all rebuttable presumptions regarding what a short-term, moderate-term, and long-term marriage is
Contact A Family Law Attorney If You Have Any Questions
If you or a loved one has any questions about divorce or a related family law issue, contact William Wallshein, a knowledgeable West Palm Beach family lawyer, today to set up a confidential consultation and find out more.