Divorce attorneys, legislators and members of the public use many adjectives to describe Florida alimony law. It is common, however, to hear detractors use words like outdated, outmoded, draconian and archaic. The same alimony laws have been in place since the days before divorce became so commonplace, back when a much higher percentage of women stayed at home rather than pursue a career.
This could soon change, since the Florida legislature is considering proposals to reform the state's alimony law. Bills in the Florida House of Representatives and Senate that would limit how much alimony - also called spousal maintenance or support - spouses must pay and how long they must make payments.
Dim Future for Lifetime Permanent Alimony
Under the new law, the length of marriage would determine the alimony period; a marriage of 10 years would translate to 10 years of alimony. Also, lifetime permanent alimony would become a thing of the past, since the bills' supporters want to limit alimony to make it merely long-term. Under Florida family law, the higher-earning spouse is often ordered to pay alimony until death; this can lead to situations where a former spouse must continue to pay alimony despite falling seriously ill, according to the USA Today.
According to the Huffington Post, lifetime permanent alimony, along with the law's exclusive focus on the recipient's needs, creates a burden on paying spouses who want to retire or are forced to do so. The bills respond to this concern by proposing that alimony obligations can be terminated once the paying spouse reaches full retirement age.
Standards Needed, Supporters Say
According to the USA Today, advocates for alimony reform believe judges have too much discretion in divorce cases and often order higher-earning spouses to pay lifetime alimony even though the other spouse has adequate resources and income for self-support. Therefore, they want the Florida legislature to adopt standards and make alimony decisions more predictable, which would in turn promote settlement and keep cases out of court. The Family Law Section of the Florida Bar has formally opposed the legislation.
Many agree that alimony reform is necessary to get the law up to speed, but they differ on just how to achieve it. With the future of alimony up in the air at the moment, individuals going through divorce or contemplating it should contact a knowledgeable divorce attorney who can evaluate their finances and seek a fair deal through settlement or trial.