Florida Alimony Reform
Florida alimony reform is still changing. On April 15th 2016 Florida Gov. Rick Scott has vetoed the controversial Alimony Reform Bill known as SB 668. This is the second time Gov. Scott has vetoed this bill. The first was back in 2013.
At that time the primary reason for the veto was due to a provision that made the law retroactive in all cases. That provision was not included in this latest attempt but this time he blamed an even more-contentious child custody component that was added to the latest bill.
The plan became one of the most hotly contested issues of the 2016 legislative session when it was amended to include a child-sharing component that would have required judges to begin with a “premise” that children should split their time equally between parents.
How would Alimony be affected?
The proposal would have created a formula, based on the length of marriage and the combined incomes of both spouses, for judges to use when setting alimony payments. It would have also eliminated permanent alimony while giving judges some discretion to veer from the formula.
Under Florida’s current statutory and case law, there are four types of alimony:
- 1. Permanent periodic alimony, which is typically awarded in marriages that are considered “long-term” (17 years or longer).
- 2. Durational alimony, which is traditionally awarded in marriages of 7 to 17 years duration. Durational alimony cannot be awarded for more than the number of years the parties were married.
- 3. Rehabilitative alimony, in which the recipient must propose a plan for “rehabilitating themselves towards self-sufficiency”.
- 4. Bridge-the-Gap alimony, which is non-modifiable and cannot be awarded for longer than two years.
Legislators were concerned over lumping Florida alimony reform and equal-time sharing into one bill. Originally the issues in both the House and Senate were addressed in separate bills. But as the bills made their way through committees, child-sharing was added to the Senate Bill, which later passed both chambers and made it to the governor’s desk.
The proposed formula
The court would calculate the presumptive alimony based on formulas. Formulas provide for a presumptive range only and are as follows: At the low end of the range .015 times years of marriage times the difference between monthly gross income of the parties.
At the high end of the range .20 times the years of marriage times the difference between the monthly gross income of the parties. The formula bases years of marriage at 20 for both low and high end of the range. However, if a court establishes the duration of the alimony award at 50 percent or less of the length of marriage, the court is required to use the actual years of marriage up to 25 years to calculate the high end of the presumptive alimony range amount. In addition, the bill allows the court to retain some flexibility to determine alimony within these ranges.
Why did the Governor veto?
Part of the Governor’s reasoning for the veto is as follows:
“The one constant though is that when a divorce involves a minor child, the needs of the child must come before all others. Current law directs a judge to consider the needs and interests of the children first when determining a parenting plan and time-sharing schedule.
This bill has the potential to up-end that policy in favor of putting the wants of a parent before the child’s best interest by creating a premise of equal time-sharing. Our judges must consider each family’s unique situation and abilities and put the best interests of the child above all else.”
The governor’s full response can be seen at the link below.
Is Florida alimony reform finished?
What will happen in the 2017 Florida legislative session with regard to alimony is unclear. However, since a bill related to reforming alimony has been introduced in both the House and the Senate for the past six years, it’s a safe bet that 2017 will be no different. While some practitioners agree that alimony reform is necessary and inevitable, others feel that any change to existing alimony laws is detrimental to stay-at-home parents and potentially sexist, as well.