New Florida Law Ends Permanent Alimony
While marriage has changed over the years, so have presumptions about alimony. Permanent alimony was previously allotted when a marriage dissolved after a long partnership, traditionally when the man left a woman who had been a housewife and mother and not earned an income outside of the home.
Many couples still prefer that arrangement, but women have increasingly sought their own income, independence, and economic stability.
In July, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law SB 1416, which essentially does away with permanent alimony, making a traditional stay-at-home mom role a less viable option following a Florida divorce.
The “First Wives Advocacy Group,” made up mostly of older women, was the first to speak publicly about the new law, claiming their lives would be disrupted without permanent alimony.
The group’s founder Jan Killilea, 63, told the News Service of Florida, “We believe by signing it, he (the governor) has put older women in a situation which will cause financial devastation.”
Killilea says she has a severe medical condition and cannot afford a lawyer to fight over alimony. She calls the law “a death sentence for me.”
On the other side of the argument, Florida Family Fairness applauded Gov. DeSantis and the Florida legislature for adding clarity and eliminating permanent alimony.
A similar bill before the governor one year ago also tried to eliminate permanent alimony. Still, it set up an alternate formula for alimony linked to the years of marriage. Gov. DeSantis rejected that proposal.
Former Florida Gov. Rick Scott vetoed similar bills twice.
Florida was one of only seven states that allowed permanent alimony, according to the Pensacola News Journal.
Dissolution of Marriage- SB 1416
Four types of alimony are now considered temporary:
- Permanent – Now considered temporary, alimony has been awarded when one spouse was court-ordered to continue support of their ex-partner. That continued until the recipient died, remarried, or had some other form of support. That is now temporary at best, while the payor’s ability to pay will be considered, as will the recipient’s ability to obtain skills or education and the mental health of the parties.
It authorizes to court to consider whether either spouse committed adultery, allowing that to impact the amount of alimony awarded.
- Bridge-the-Gap – Allows for transitioning from a married partner to being single and, therefore, financially independent. It is now limited to two years.
- Rehabilitative – Rehabilitative alimony can be awarded, allowing the soon-to-be ex-spouse to receive job training, for example, but that alimony will be limited to five years.
- Durational – Awards alimony for a specific period. Defining a short-term marriage as less than ten years and long term of 20 years or more. The new law will cap durational alimony to three years or less and may not exceed 35 percent of the difference between the spouses’ income. A marriage of 20 years or more will receive a payment of up to 75 percent of the marriage term. The new statute in Florida allows for the modification of durational alimony.
- Those married for less than three years will not be eligible for alimony.
Burden of Proof
A spouse seeking alimony or some support or maintenance now has the burden of proof to argue that they need the help and that the other party can pay.
As for existing alimony agreements, they should not be affected but are still modifiable. In some cases, women accepted alimony instead of a division of assets following a divorce. Those agreements could now be the subject of a petition for modification.
The court can consider the age and health of the person making the payments, the traditional retirement age, and the impact a reduction will have on the recipient of the payments.
Your Florida Family Lawyer
Florida family lawyer Crystal Collins Spencer is prepared to tackle the new law’s challenges facing divorcing spouses. Largely uncharted, the law will leave many parties seeking modification of their alimony payments and others needing to return to a more permanent form of alimony, particularly involving high net-worth individuals. The change will also allow the state to explore the “fault” behind an irretrievably broken marriage, a departure from Florida’s traditional “no-fault” status.
There are many new avenues to explore, and Ms. Spencer will be your advocate, delving into all of the variables to seek adequate compensation and fairness. This is not the time to delay. Call our Pensacola office at 850-795-4910 to explore your options and the road ahead.
Pensacola News Journal