The new Florida alimony reform bill has been a very controversial provision among the Florida community. It was initially filed in the Senate on October 28, 2015. The bill continued to pass through the chambers and has made its way to Governor Scott’s desk on April 4th, 2016. The bill was passed by the Senate 24-14, then passed the House 74-38. Governor Scott now has until April 19 to take action on the matter. If he signs the bill into law, it will take effect on October 1st, 2016.
This bill will change not only the current alimony framework in Florida but it will also change the way the courts consider custody matter. The bill in essence states that it is in the best interest of the child that it spends an equal amount of time with both parents. This would affect the way future cases are determined in the state of Florida since each child h may have to split parenting time 50/50. Another adjustment being made is that the court would be allowed to reduce alimony payments if the person paying is unemployed or does not have sufficient funds. The payment cannot exceed more than 55% of the payer’s income. Another change that is being proposed is to end or modify the alimony when the person receiving the payments reaches the age to receive full Social Security benefits, then the alimony is terminated. This bill if passed would also end permanent alimony in Florida and the court would be forced to follow a mathematical equation instead to determine the amount and duration of the alimony reward.
A number of different organizations have been advocating against this bill, heavily urging for a veto from the Governor and doing everything in their power to raise awareness on the consequences. Since then, the Governor’s office has received more than 11,000 phone calls, letters, and e-mails. It is interesting to note that 80% of the people were supporters, while the rest were opponents. Most of these callers are men’s rights group and associations aiming to stop alimony all together.
The proposed bill states the following:
(2) INITIAL FINDINGS.—When a party has requested alimony in a dissolution of marriage proceeding, the court shall make initial written findings as to: (a) The amount of each party’s monthly gross income. (b) The years of marriage as determined from the date of marriage through the date of the filing of the action for dissolution of marriage.
(3) ALIMONY GUIDELINES.—After making the initial findings described in subsection (2), the court shall calculate the presumptive alimony amount range and the presumptive alimony duration range. (a) The low end of the presumptive alimony amount range shall be calculated by (0.015 x the years of marriage). The high end of the presumptive shall be calculated by (0.020 x the years of marriage). Both are x the difference between the monthly gross incomes of the parties/ In calculating the difference between the parties’ monthly gross income, the income of the party seeking alimony shall be subtracted from the income of the other party. If the application of the formulas to establish a guideline range results in a negative number, the presumptive alimony amount shall be $0. If a court establishes the duration of the alimony award at 50 percent or less of the length of the marriage, the court shall use the actual years of the marriage, up to a maximum of 25 years, to calculate the high end of the presumptive alimony amount range. (b) The low end of the presumptive alimony duration range shall be calculated by using the formula: 0.25 x the years of marriage. The high end of the presumptive alimony duration range shall be calculated by using the following formula: 0.75 x the years of marriage.
(4) ALIMONY AWARD.— (a) For marriages of 2 years or less, there is a rebuttable presumption that no alimony shall be awarded. The court may award alimony only if the court makes written findings that there is a clear and convincing need for alimony. (b) For Marriages of more than 2 years.-Absent an agreement of the parties, alimony shall presumptively be awarded in an amount within the alimony amount range calculated in. In determining the amount and duration of the alimony award, the court shall consider all of the following factors:
1. The financial resources of the recipient spouse, including the income from nonmarital or marital property or other source and the ability of the spouse to meet his/ her needs independently.
2. The financial resources of the payor spouse, including the actual or potential income from nonmarital or marital property or any other source
3. The standard of living of the parties during the marriage with consideration that there will be two households to maintain after the dissolution of the marriage.
4. The equitable distribution of marital property, including whether an unequal distribution of marital property was made to reduce or alleviate the need for alimony.
5. Both parties’ income, employment, and employability, obtainable through reasonable diligence and additional training or education.
6. Whether a party could become better able to support himself or herself and reduce the need for ongoing alimony by pursuing additional educational or vocational training.
7. Whether one party has historically earned higher or lower income than the income reflected at the time of trial
8. Whether either party has foregone or postponed economic, educational, or employment opportunities during the course of the marriage.
9. Whether either party has caused the unreasonable depletion or dissipation of marital assets.
10. The amount of temporary alimony and the number of months that temporary alimony was paid to the recipient spouse.
11. The age, health, and physical and mental condition of the parties, including consideration of significant health care needs or uninsured or unreimbursed health care expenses.
12. Significant economic or noneconomic contributions to the marriage including, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party, payment by one spouse of the other spouse’s separate debts, or enhancement of the other spouse’s real property.
13. The tax consequence of the alimony award.
14. Any other factor necessary to do justice between the parties. (c) The court may establish an award of alimony that is outside the presumptive alimony amount or alimony duration ranges. (b) and makes specific written findings concerning the relevant factors justifying that the application of the presumptive alimony amount or alimony duration ranges, as applicable, is inappropriate or inequitable.”
Patricia Elizee is a partner at Elizee Hernandez Law Firm, P.A. A law practice that is dedicated to handling immigration and family law cases. We are located at 1110 Brickell Avenue, Suite 315, Miami, Florida 33131. Ms. Elizee can be reached at 305-371-8846 or email@example.com.