New Proposed Divorce and Alimony Legislation – Senate Bill 748 and House Bill 549

There are currently two pending bills (one in the Florida House and one in the Florida Senate) that will drastically effect divorce proceedings in the State of Florida, including those divorce decrees that have already been entered, if there is alimony involved as one of the issues in the divorce.

As a brief summary of the proposed changes to current Divorce and Alimony laws:

They’re proposing capping alimony at only 20% of the payors net income and also taking out consideration of adultery. Limiting the amount to such a low figure and removing the consideration of adultery could force a dependent spouse to stay in an abusive, adulturous marriage with no options! They’re also trying to abolish many of the factors to be considered, such as standard of living, and limiting financial resources that are considered in determining a party’s ability to pay alimony only to those assets and liabiltiies acquired during the marriage and income from marital assets. So, if someone is about to receive a large inheritance, they had better file for divorce QUICK!!

They’re also trying to increase the definition of long term marriage to 20 or more years (currently 17 years), make bridge the gap alimony modifiable, eliminate durational alimony for marriages of less than 7 years (short term), and reduce the length of durational alimony to no more than 50% of the length of a moderate term marriage (7 to 20 years) or long term marriage. They’re also trying to abolish permanent periodic alimony, and instead call it “long term” alimony which cannot last for longer than 60% of the long term (20 or more year) marriage and only make it awardable in a long term marriage.

Also, even with the above limitations, they are additionally trying to make alimony automatically terminate once the payor reaches retirement age, regardless of whether they continue to work and have the ability to pay (and regardless of the receivers continued need). Currently, retirement can potentially be grounds for reduction of an ongoing alimony obligation, but it all depends on whether there is a continued ability to pay and/or genuine need.

And this following proposal would really create a flood of new litigation. They’re also wanting to make the amendment to the statute in and of itself consitute a substantial change in circumstances that warrants a modification (which will create a bunch of new business at least!). While there are a few limitations to this, nearly any current alimony award would be modifiable if it did not comport with the amended statute!

Finally, last but not least, they are proposing to change the definition of “supportive relationship” to basically defining it as cohabitating with someone for three or more months in a common household and there being an economic benefit to both parties, thereby getting rid of nearly all of the current consideration factors in determining a supportive relationship. So, would the supportive relationship definition (as proposed) include an adult child that remains in the household and helps out with bills? or someone renting a room in the household? While I agree that the definition of supportive relationship needs to be changed and more clearly defined, the proposed statute goes way too far.

WOW. If this passes, things are really going to get messy!!

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