Florida lawmakers seek to provide new, clearer alimony guidelines

When the 2016 session gets underway, Florida state lawmakers will be debating bills containing a number of proposed changes to our state’s alimony and child support regulations. Those supporting the three bills (two in the Senate and one in the House) say that the intention of the proposed legislation is in part to provide judges with clearer guidelines and formulas to use when determining the amount and length of these payments.

Those seeking to reform Florida family law point out that the current laws on the books date back to the 1960s — a very different time. They also contend that the changes would help reduce litigation time by having more clear-cut, predictable guidelines for both judges and attorneys.

Among the proposed changes in the bills are the following:

— The various types of alimony (permanent, rehabilitative and durational) would be eliminated. There would only be one type (with the exception of temporary alimony, which may be awarded to one spouse while the divorce proceedings are ongoing.)

— Alimony and child support payments would be capped at 55 percent of the payer’s income. If that cap is exceeded, child support payments would be reduced.

— The formula for determining alimony would take into consideration the length of the marriage. Those married for two decades or more would be eligible for larger awards.

Alimony would be modified or eliminated if the receiving spouse has a significant income increase (greater than 10 percent) or enters a relationship where he/she is being supported economically. It would also be modified or eliminated when the paying spouse retires.

Attempts to reform the way that these payments aren’t determined aren’t new. Gov. Scott vetoed a bill in 2013 because it would have made the changes retroactive. While there has been some objections by those involved in family law to some of the provisions, the House version of the bill has the support of The Florida Bar’s family law section.

The legislation could have a significant impact on the roughly 80,000 Florida couples who divorce each year. Florida family law attorneys will be able to help their clients make sense of the new law and how it impacts them if and when it passes.

Source: Herald-Tribune, “Proposed changes to divorce laws gain strength — and opposition,” Lloyd Dunkelberger, Dec. 13, 2015

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