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Florida Legislature once again takes up alimony reform

For many years, one of the hot topics of debate in the halls of Florida's Capitol building has been whether the state's alimony law is in need of major changes. In fact, the state legislature was actually able to pass a comprehensive alimony reform bill just two years ago only to see it vetoed by Governor Rick Scott over concerns about retroactive provisions.  

Despite this very recent and embittering defeat, lawmakers are once again poised to try to change the state's alimony law. Indeed, both chambers have drawn up bills -- House Bill 455, Senate Bill 250 and Senate Bill 668 -- that would have a considerable impact on the roughly 80,000 couples in the Sunshine State who file for divorce every year.

Some of the more notable alimony reforms called for by these bills include:

  • Elimination of permanent alimony, durational alimony and rehabilitative alimony, and the introduction of a formula outlining ranges for alimony awards based on the length of the marriage and respective income levels; Here, larger alimony awards would result for marriages of 20-plus years, while no alimony would result for marriages of less than two years.
  • Modification or termination of alimony in the event the paying spouse retires, or the receiving spouse sees their income increase by 10 percent or more.
  • Modification or termination of alimony in the event the receiving spouse enters a "supportive relationship," meaning one in which economic support comparable to a marriage is provided.

It's important to note that there are several key differences between the reform bills being advanced in the House and Senate. Most significantly, the Senate version contains a contentious provision calling for every divorce case to begin with the presumption of a 50-50 child custody split.

It remains to be seen whether these bills can gain the necessary traction in Tallahassee, something that will depend upon the support garnered from key industry groups. Indeed, something currently working in favor of the House bill is that it has finally gained the support of the family law section of the Florida Bar Association.  

The Senate bills are currently awaiting an initial hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, while the House bill was already advanced by the Civil Justice subcommittee and is similarly awaiting a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee.

Stay tuned for updates …

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