Alimony Reform 2016

The Florida legislature is now in session and once again is considering amending Florida's current law on alimony. Florida courts may currently award one, or a combination of five different types of alimony: temporary alimony, bridge-the-gap alimony, rehabilitative alimony, durational alimony and permanent alimony.

Alimony Amount Determination Under Current Law

Under current law, a court may order the payment of one or a combination of the types of alimony authorized under current law. Alimony is unlike child-support which determines the amount by a fairly strict formula (child-support guidelines) and expires after a statutorily defined period. After equitably distributing the parties assets (equitable distribution) the court must determine if the requesting spouse has a need for alimony and whether the other spouse has an ability to pay. To determine the proper alimony award, the court must consider relevant factors as contained in the current alimony statute. Although adultery is not a bar to alimony the court may consider the adultery of either spouse in the circumstances surrounding the adultery. The court cannot consider marital misconduct as a basis to prohibit alimony in less the misconduct causes a depletion of marital assets. In situations where there is not sufficient reason to order one of the forms of alimony the court can award nominal alimony, such as one dollar as a "placeholder" for one of the five types of alimony recognized by current law. The purpose of awarding nominal alimony is to reserve jurisdiction for the court to later modify the amount of alimony upon consideration of a petition for modification by the receiving spouse.

The 2016 Alimony Reform Bill Effect

HB 455, should it become law, calls for sweeping changes to the current alimony law. The bill repeals all forms of alimony, creating one category, similar to what is called "durational alimony". Alimony may be awarded in an amount and duration within a range based upon a mathematical formula. The proposed bill retains the concept of using alimony for bridging the gap or rehabilitation purposes that judges may use to determine the award within a presumptive range. The bill retains temporary alimony and does not permit it to be calculated by use of the formula. The new guidelines would effectively eliminate permanent alimony.

Short-term Marriages

For marriages of two years or less, there is a rebuttable presumption that no alimony may be awarded regardless of the presumptive range determined pursuant to the formula. However, the court may award alimony for marriages of less than two years if it determines:

  • there is a clear and convincing need for alimony;
  • there is ability to pay alimony; and
  • the failure to what alimony would be inequitable.

If the parties have been married for longer than two years, and there is no agreement, alimony is presumptively awarded with the range calculated under the formula. In determining the amount and duration of alimony award within the presumptive range, the court retains broad discretion must consider a list of statutory factors in making its decision. The new law would no longer allow the court to order alimony be paid a lump sum.

The court may establish an award of alimony that is outside either or both of the presumptive alimony amount and duration range. In order to deviate from the presumptive guideline the court must consider all the enumerated factors applicable to determining an award of alimony within the presumptive range and make specific findings to justify a deviation. If the bill passes and becomes law, the effective date is October 1, 2016.

West Palm Beach Divorce Attorney

Please contact the law offices of divorce attorney, Stephen J. Press, at 561-833-2772 for a free consultation.