Alimony has made significant changes over the years and the future is uncertain with pending legislation and case law changing the interpretations every day.
Past Alimony law
Traditionally, alimony has been ordered by the courts as a way to maintain the standard of living of the wife after a divorce. The courts relied heavily (and still do) on the financial affidavit filed by both the Wife and Husband in order to determine the standard of living during the marriage and the future needs. The legal term of this evaluation is called the need and ability to pay standard. In the past, the most common type of alimony in the past was permanent periodic alimony. This was only available for long marriages and the alimony was paid until remarriage or death. This hasn’t changed completely, as the permanent alimony continues to exist, but now there are several other types of alimony that are available based upon different circumstances of the marriage.
Presently there are four main types of alimony: bridge-the-gap; rehabilitative; durational, and permanent. Each type is meant to address a specific situation that relates to your particular marriage and upcoming divorce. The best example of rehabilitative alimony is the stay at home mom who may have graduated from school with an associate degree, but hasn’t worked in the field for the past fifteen years while she was home with the children. Rehabilitative alimony may be ordered while the wife returns to school and becomes employable. Florida law changed in July 2011 and now requires that before permanent alimony is ordered, there must be no better alternative. Additionally, the spouse paying alimony cannot be left with significantly less net income that the net income of the recipient unless there are exceptional circumstances.
The Future of Alimony
What does the future hold for Alimony in Florida? The trends seem to be moving away from high awards of alimony and there is currently a bill before the legislature that could significantly impact the alimony laws. The most dramatic change proposed in Senate Bill 748 is that alimony cannot exceed 20% of the payor’s monthly net income and the standard of living during the marriage will no longer be a factor for the court to evaluate. It appears from the recent changes in the law and the proposed legislation, that alimony as we know it in Florida is going to continue to change and the question will be, who will it benefit?