New Florida Alimony Reform Bill

The alimony Reform Bill of 2013, Senate Bill 718, has been placed on the Senate calendar for consideration by the full Senate on March 27, 2013. There is a House companion bill that will soon go on the house calendar for consideration. The bill would substantially amend current Florida law on alimony. The bill revises the factors the court must consider in awarding alimony:

  • The court must consider the same factors in awarding temporary alimony, alimony sought without a concurrent filing of a dissolution of marriage, and alimony required upon entry of a final order.
  • The bill deletes as a factor the standard of living enjoyed your marriage, and replaces it with the net income and standard of living of each party in light of the alimony award.
  • The bill also creates a rebuttable presumption that both parties will have a reduced standard of living after a dissolution of marriage.
  • Nonmarital assets may be considered.
  • The bill requires the court to impute income to an unemployed obligee based on the obligee's prior income and duration of unemployment.

The bill also amends presumptions relating to alimony based on the latest of the marriage:

  • the bill increases the number of years of marriage required for a marriage to qualify as a short-term, mid-term, or long-term marriage.
  • The bill creates a rebuttable presumption against alimony for short-term marriages, and in favor of alimony for long-term marriages.
  • The bill specifies a percentage caps on obligor's income that may be awarded as alimony, which are based on rates of marriage and specifies exceptions to the caps.
Permanent alimony deleted

The bill would eliminate permanent periodic alimony and revises other forms of alimony:

  • Permanent, periodic alimony is eliminated.
  • Forms of alimony are prioritized in order of Bridge-the-gap, followed by rehabilitative alimony, and lastly, durational alimony.
  • The court may not award alimony for. Of time longer than 50% of the length of the marriage, unless exceptional circumstances justify a long award.
  • The bill limits the circumstances under which a court may award combinations of alimony forms.
Modification of Alimony

The bill changes the way alimony is modified based on a substantial change in circumstances:

  • The retirement of the obligor is a substantial change in circumstances.
  • Alimony automatically terminates upon obligor's normal retirement age.
  • A court must reduce or terminate an alimony award based on a supportive relationship between the obligate and another person.
  • And obligate who is in a supportive relationship and who challenges a modification petition must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the obligations need for alimony is not reduced by the relationship.
  • The modification of an alimony award is presumed to apply retroactively to the date of filing of a petition for modification.
Effect on current alimony agreements and court orders

The bill applies towards of alimony and agreements for alimony in effect before the effective date of the bill. Thus the new law (if it passes) is itself a basis for modification of existing alimony awards.

Constitutional Issue

Since the bill applies retroactively to premarital agreements and marital settlement agreements cooperated into a judgment or postnuptial agreements executed before the effective date of the bill, that part of the law raises constitutional issues. The Florida Constitution provides in effect that the law may be enacted that impairs the obligation of contracts. Since premarital, postnuptial agreements and marital settlement agreements have been clearly stated as contracts by the courts, the proposed law could be considered to impair existing contracts and therefore would be unconstitutional. It is also possible that if a court final judgment can be modified via the new law it would also violate the separation of powers provision of the Florida Constitution. The retroactive application of the bill could thus be challenged on the basis that the bill would have the impact of undoing final judgments entered into by the judicial branch. This would be a second basis to find retroactive modification unconstitutional.

Attorney Stephen J. Press was a state representative in the Florida legislature for 10 years. While in the Legislature he was the chairman of the judiciary subcommittee were all family law legislation had to pass through. As state representative he sponsored the bill that enacted equitable distribution which is now a core concept in Florida divorce law. As a former state representative, Mr. press keeps abreast of the evolving divorce and family law's in the Florida legislature. It is important to be aware of potential new laws since they can drastically affect the outcome of current divorce and family law proceedings.

Contact a West Palm Beach divorce attorney

If you are considering a divorce is important that you consult with a highly knowledgeable and professional attorney. Please contact the Law offices of West Palm Beach divorce attorney Stephen J. Press at 561-833-2772 or contact us online for a free consultation.