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DeSantis Transforms Alimony For Florida

On Behalf of | Aug 4, 2023 | Family Law

Effective July 1, 2023, for all pending cases in Florida and those filed thereafter, will no longer be subject to an award of permanent alimony. Florida, being only one of the remaining 8 states to continue to have permanent alimony, has abolished it. The new act also includes provisions which give guidelines on the length of an award of alimony and also the amount. Child support has long had child support guidelines. Those amounts are generally within 5% of the statutory amount. This will allow individuals to know at the beginning of a dissolution matter where they stand.

To begin, there are now four (4) types of alimony. They are Temporary alimony, Bridge the Gap, Rehabilitative, and Durational. The Court has discretion to order alimony paid in periodic payments or lump sum.

Temporary alimony is support given during the pendency of the dissolution of marriage.

Bridge the Gap alimony can last for no more than two (2) years. It is non-modifiable in amount oR duration, unless and until the death of either spouse or the remarriage of the receiving spouse. It is intended to transition a spouse from being married to being single.

Rehabilitative alimony is intended to redevelop a spouse’s previous skills, or to allow a spouse to acquire additional education, training or work experience that is needed to allow a spouse to be capable of self-support. This could include for example, a spouse wanting to attend nursing school. The award could include the cost of tuition and housing for the duration of the necessary education to achieve that degree. It could also be if a person, for instance, previously worked as a nurse but whose license had lapsed. An award such as that could include additional classes or continuing education for the spouse to activate the license. The award can last no longer than a period of five (5)years. This type of award can be modified or terminated if there is a substantial change in circumstances post divorce, non-compliance with the plan or early completion.

Durational alimony can be awarded for a set period of time. It terminates upon the death of either party or remarriage of the receiving spouse. It can modified based on a substantial change in circumstances as set forward in Florida Statute Section 61.14. If the marriage is less than three years, the spouse cannot receive an award of durational. The length of the award cannot be modified except under exceptional circumstances and cannot exceed the length of the marriage but for the specific exceptions. A marriage lasting 0-10 years is a short term marriage. A durational award for a short term marriage cannot exceed 50% of the length of marriage. A durational award for a moderate-term marriage is one lasting 10 years and one day up until 19 years 364 days. An durational length marriage award is limited to 60% of the total length of the marriage. A long term marriage is now 20 years forward. (This is a change from the previous law that established a long term marriage as one lasting 17 years or more.) A durational alimony award for a long term marriage is limited to 75% of the length of marriage. If exceptional circumstances can be shown by clear and convincing evidence the length can go beyond, but cannot exceed the length of marriage for any award. This standard is harder to prove than simply a substantial change. The statute seemingly requires the Court to consider whether a receiving spouse’s age and employability limit his/her ability to self-support; the extent that the receiving spouse’s available financial resources limit self-support, whether the mental and physical condition of the receiving spouse limits self-support and the extent to which a receiving spouse must care for a disabled child.

The amount of alimony is limited to 35% of the difference in the parties’ net incomes. A party’s net income is determined by taking the gross income and deducting federal and state taxes, if any, Medicare, Social Security, health insurance for that spouse, and mandatory retirement or union dues. For example, if one spouse makes $4000 net per month and the other earns $1000 per month. The spouse who earns $1000 could potentially receive up to 35% of $3000 or $1,050. We use the net numbers due to the change in the tax law that made alimony no longer considered income for the receiving spouse or deductible by the paying spouse.

Of note, most recall that Florida is known to be a “no-fault state.” This means that previously a spouse did not have to prove that the other spouse did something wrong, for instance infidelity. The statute now reads, “The court may consider the adultery of either spouse and any resulting economic impact in determining the amount of alimony, if any, to be awarded.” Previously, the Court would bring any amount spent on a non-marital expenditure for instance purchase of a ring for a paramour, back to the marital asset amount to be divided. The new law seems to suggest that if a spouse is unfaithful, an award can be granted or denied. Only time and subsequent cases will determine how we define that part of the statute.