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Are Alimony Changes on the Way in Florida?

Florida Alimony Reform Movement

According to a recent article in the Jacksonville Daily Record, the remaining months in 2014 may bring some changes to Florida laws that will impact divorces and family law attorneys. In addition to potential changes regarding same-sex marriage and alterations to the Rule of Procedure (which may involve integrating the Family Law Rules of Procedure into the Rules of Civil Procedure), the article suggests that alimony reform remains a hot topic in our state.

Alimony reform initiatives began in 2013 with Senate Bill 718. That bill, according to the article, “passed through both the Florida Senate and the House of Representatives at a breakneck pace.” Indeed, many Floridians believed that a new alimony statute was on the way. At the last minute, however, Governor Rick Scott vetoed the bill in response to pressure from both the legal community and other advocates. The governor also insisted that alimony reform wouldn’t be on the table in 2014.

However, those in favor of alimony reform may be back in advance of the 2015 Legislative Session. Proponents of Senate Bill 718 are likely to remove the language from the bill that the governor cited as “objectionable” when he vetoed the bill. In the meantime, is there a way for an alimony payor to modify or terminate alimony obligations?

Understanding Alimony Obligations in Florida

First, it’s important to understand how alimony is treated under Florida law. According to Florida Statute Section 61.08, a court may grant alimony to either party in a divorce. What terms of alimony exist? The statute makes clear that alimony can take several different forms:

  • Bridge-the-gap: support to make a transition from married life to single life.
  • Rehabilitative: support to assist the other spouse in redeveloping previous skills or credentials, or acquiring education, training, or other work experience in order to develop new employment skills or credentials.
  • Durational: when periodic alimony is inappropriate, durational alimony can provide the other spouse with economic assistance for a set amount of time after the marriage ends. It’s usually only awarded when there’s no need for permanent alimony.
  • Permanent: support that’s awarded on a permanent basis for a spouse who “lacks the financial ability to meet his or her needs and necessities of life following a dissolution of marriage.” Permanent alimony is only awarded in certain circumstances.

Alimony can take any combination of these forms, according to the law. Depending on the circumstances, the court can also order alimony as a series of payments, in a lump sum, or both. In Florida, the adultery of either spouse can also influence the amount of alimony awarded.

Modifying or Terminating Alimony Payments

In general, a substantial change in circumstances may allow for an alimony award to be modified or terminated. Under statutory law, certain forms of alimony are modifiable based on a substantial change in circumstances (rehabilitative alimony, durational alimony, and permanent alimony) while others are not modifiable (bridge-the-gap alimony).

What constitutes a substantial change in circumstances? Many different life events may be significant enough to lead to a modification in alimony, but in general, shifts in employment, health, or inheritances can lead to a change in alimony payments. Additionally, Florida Statute Section 61.14 allows a judge to reduce or terminate an alimony award if the spouse receiving the payments has entered into a new supportive relationship.

We’ll need to wait to see whether alimony reforms are revisited in the next legislative session. In the meantime, if you have questions about spousal support, you should speak to an experienced Florida divorce attorney. Contact the Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood Law Offices of Steven A. Mason, P.A. for legal advice at 954-963-5900 or leave a message online.

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