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What You Need to Know About the Proposed Changes to Florida’s Alimony Law

Divorce LawBy: Beth Vogelsang, Esq.

IIn recent years, the issue of alimony reform has become a hotly debated topic across the United States. This issue is currently being addressed in Florida, where a bill to overhaul alimony laws is pending in the state legislature.

The proposed legislation, known as SB 1416 and HB 1409, seeks to codify into law a court decision from a 1992 divorce case, which judges have used as a guidepost when making decisions about whether retirement is a basis for modifying or terminating alimony. Supporters of the bill argue that it would provide much-needed clarity and consistency in how alimony is awarded, while critics warn that it could unfairly impact certain individuals.

What exactly does this bill propose?

There are several key issues at the heart of this controversy, including: 

  • Elimination of Permanent Alimony. The proposed legislation eliminates permanent alimony and replaces it with durational alimony. Durational alimony may not exceed 50 percent of the length of a short-term marriage, 60 percent of the length of a moderate-term marriage, or 75 percent of the length of a long-term marriage. The proposed legislation defines short-term marriages as 10 years or less, moderate-term marriages as 10 to 20 years, and long-term marriages as 20 years or longer. Durational alimony would be prohibited in marriages lasting less than 3 years.
  • Amount of Durational Alimony. The amount of durational alimony is the amount determined to be the obligee’s reasonable need, not to exceed 35 percent of the difference between the parties’ net incomes.
  • Retirement. Alimony may be reduced or terminated when an obligor reaches normal retirement age, if retirement reduces the ability to pay alimony.
  • Retroactivity. One of the most contentious aspects of the proposed legislation is that it would allow courts to retroactively apply the statute to actions to modify alimony, potentially impacting individuals who are already paying or receiving alimony payments. Critics argue that this could create financial instability and uncertainty for those affected, while supporters contend that it is necessary to bring clarity and consistency to the system.

Bottom Line

Despite these concerns, the alimony overhaul bill has garnered significant support from a wide range of groups, including business organizations, family law attorneys, and even some women’s groups. Many believe that the current system is outdated and in need of reform and that this bill represents an important step forward in achieving that goal.

As the debate over alimony reform continues to rage on in Florida, it remains to be seen whether the proposed legislation will ultimately become law. However, one thing is clear — the issue of alimony reform is not going away anytime soon.

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