Alimony Reform Bill Vetoed – Where Does that Leave Divorcing Couples?

There are typically two issues in divorce that raise the largest amount of emotion and contention – child custody and alimony. Each parent commonly views themselves as the better choice to care for a child and bristles at requests for alimony because it requires continued support of a spouse they no longer want in their life. A bill presented to the governor from the last legislative session sought to reform the alimony system by eliminating permanent, durational and rehabilitative alimony and setting a fixed formula to determine the amount of the alimony award based on the number of years married. It also included a 50/50 parenting time standard for child custody decisions. Governor Rick Scott vetoed this legislation because of the child custody provision, citing, in his opinion, that all child custody and parenting plan decisions should be driven by the best interests of the child. While the legislature is likely to introduce another alimony reform bill in near future, the defeat of the recent attempt leaves Floridians with the current alimony system. The main purpose behind this bill was to make alimony awards more predictable because the current law is very subjective with the results varying among judges.

Florida has four types of alimony a court may award – permanent, bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative and durational. A court may grant any one type of spousal support to party or a combination of several types.

Bridge-the-Gap

Bridge-the-gap support is a short-term award granted in order to assist a person with the transition from married to single. It cannot extend beyond two years, and the amount and duration cannot be changed at a later date. This type of alimony terminates if either party dies or the person receiving the support remarries.

Rehabilitative

Rehabilitative alimony is intended to support a person while he/she works to gain the skills and education necessary to become self-supporting. A specific plan for how the person receiving support will acquire the credentials and experience needed to earn a sufficient income must be included with the alimony award decree. This support can be terminated or modified if there is a substantial change in circumstances, a failure to follow the rehabilitative plan, or a completion of the plan.

Durational

Durational alimony is usually given for marriages of short or moderate length (less than seven years and seven to 17 years), and is intended to provide financial assistance for set period of time. The award will terminate if either party dies or the party receiving support remarries. The amount of durational alimony can be terminated or modified if there is a substantial change in circumstances, but the length of the award will only be changed in extraordinary situations.

Permanent

Finally, permanent alimony is granted when a party does not have the financial ability to support him/herself. It is intended to provide support sufficient to keep the party at the same standard of living enjoyed during the marriage. It is typically reserved for long marriages (those lasting more than 17 years), although it can be awarded for shorter marriages under special circumstances. Before a court awards this kind of alimony, it must first find that no other form of spousal support is appropriate in a particular case. The award automatically terminates if a party dies or the party receiving support remarries. This award may be modified or terminated if there is a significant change in circumstances or the person receiving support enters into a relationship that involves financial support from the new partner.

Contact a Divorce Attorney

If you are facing or contemplating divorce, especially if alimony is likely to be an issue, working with an attorney to move the case through the courts will help you better understand the process and likely receive a better outcome. The Tampa law firm of Bubley & Bubley, P.A. will fight to make sure your voice is heard and the best possible solution is reached. Contact us to schedule an appointment.

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