If you’re Googling “what to wear to a court hearing?” it’s likely that you have…
Significant changes to Florida’s alimony statutes took effect on July 1, 2023, after Governor Ron DeSantis signed a legislative bill he rejected last year. The Florida Senate passed Bill 1416 that changes the definitions of marriage length categories and corresponding obligations for alimony in Florida.
This implies significant adjustments that will impact the parties’ financial planning when facing a divorce. Effective from the bill’s ratification date, the changes apply to cases filed after July 1 and those already pending in court as of that date. Florida Statute 61.08, the state’s alimony law, changed in the following ways.
Permanent alimony in Florida is now a thing of the past. Before the legislative change, a divorcing party had the option of requesting the court to award alimony payments to the party showing a continuing need for financial assistance through that party’s lifetime. To qualify for permanent alimony under the prior law, the parties had to be married for over 17 years or be able to show exceptional circumstances. Exceptional circumstances included permanent disability or illness that occurred during the marriage. Under the new revision, the courts can no longer award a party permanent alimony. Instead, the court may award other forms of financial support, including temporary, bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, and durational allowances. In addition to removing permanent alimony in Florida, the legislature changed the qualifications and length of time a party may receive the other forms of alimony.
This form of alimony is based upon the length of a marriage. The law defines the length of a marriage as the time between the date the marriage began and the date one of the parties filed a petition to dissolve the marriage. The length of marriage does not extend to the date of the divorce decree. Alimony in Florida categorizes marriages by length of marriage. This becomes important when the court considers the award of durational alimony.
Florida defines a “short marriage” as a marriage that lasts less than ten years. Previously, the law considered marriages shorter than seven years to be short marriages. Alimony for Short-term Marriages in Florida is now limited to 50% of the marriage period.
Moderate-Term Marriage Alimony
A “moderate term” marriage is now considered a marriage that lasts between ten and twenty years. Previously, the moderate length marriage was between seven and seventeen years. For moderate-length marriages, the limit is 60% of the marriage period.
Long-Term Marriage Alimony
A “long-term” marriage is now defined as one lasting longer than twenty years. Before the recent bill, the law recognized any marriage lasting more than seventeen years as a long-term marriage. Now, alimony in Florida for long-term marriages is capped at 70% of the time the marriage lasts.
This form of alimony pertains to financial assistance provided to the spouse with the intention of enhancing their education, experience, or other condition—the ultimate aim is achieving financial independence. The court will typically establish a plan for post-divorce rehabilitation as a condition for the alimony award. Previously, there was no specified limit on the period rehabilitative alimony could be paid. Under the revised statute, the award is now limited to five years but can be terminated or reduced if it is shown that the benefiting spouse is not following the plan for rehabilitation set by the court.
New Process for Seeking Modification or Termination of Alimony
The new bill made changes that went beyond just ending permanent alimony and changing the terms of durational and rehabilitative alimony in Florida. The legislature also gave courts instructions on how to reduce or end alimony based on when the obligated party retires and whether it is fair. The Florida courts may consider certain factors as the normal age of retirement in the obligated party’s career, as set forth by the Social Security Administration. Furthermore, under the law, the court can determine if the supported former spouse has entered into a supportive relationship with another person, thereby potentially removing the need for financial support from the obligated former spouse.
Under the same bill that was signed by the governor, the legislature also introduced changes to Florida Statute 61. Now, a party seeking modification to the amount or duration of alimony is not required to prove that a substantial and material change in the circumstances was unanticipated at the time of the original award of alimony. By removing this requirement, the legislature eased the burden of the party paying support to reduce or terminate their alimony obligation. Previously, the party moving for the modification or reduction had to show that a substantial and material change had occurred. Additionally, the party had to prove that the event or condition causing the change could not have been anticipated at the time of the original court order. If the event or circumstance could have been anticipated, the request for modification would be rejected.
The New Bill Excludes Previous Florida Alimony Agreements
As you can see, the recent changes in the law are significant and will greatly impact the financial future of both parties to a divorce. It is important to point out that the new legislation does not impact existing agreements for permanent alimony in Florida, which was the basis for Governor DeSantis’ previous veto of the same legislation in the 2022 term.
More often than not, divorce is an uncertain time that can carry a sense of loss. Therefore, figuring out what is the fairest path forward can be a daunting task. At The Carlson Law Firm, our attorneys and legal team have decades of experience helping people through their toughest times. With a deep sense of compassion, our lawyers will aim to get the fairest resolution. A family law attorney with experience will clarify and explain if alimony is warranted and, if so, what type.
Sometimes divorce is inevitable, but it does not have to be an end. At The Carlson Law Firm, we will work so you can move on to the next chapter of your life. You need an experienced, professional and fair attorney by your side. With our family attorneys, you will have all the guidance you require throughout the process. Our legal team will help you negotiate with fairness, so you can start with your best foot forward after divorce. If you have any questions about these important changes to the Florida alimony statutes, we can help. Or, if you need help with any family law matter, feel free to contact our St. Petersburg area office at (727) 373-4655.