Florida currently enjoys some of the most progressive alimony laws in the nation. Members of the Family Law Section of The Florida Bar have worked closely with members of the legislature to pass good public policy that is fair and equitable to alimony payors and recipients.
Appropriate reform has come in the form of a recently adopted supportive-relationship law that ends permanent alimony in the event of the recipients’ lack of continued need because of a new supportive relationship. Also, reform has occurred and permanent alimony can now never result in the recipient spouse having more income than the obligor spouse.
As a result of the efforts of the Family Law Section through changes made to the alimony statutes in 2010 and 2011, fewer cases are litigated and more are settled.
View Florida's current alimony statutes, then see the Truth Files to separate the facts from the myths.
From the Sun-Sentinel
The Alimony Reform Bill that has gone through the Legislature now eviscerates the traditional concept of the stay-at-home parent who takes care of the children and performs the household upkeep by cooking, cleaning, shopping, running errands, and homemaking.
This bill, by limiting the amount and duration of alimony, punishes stay-at-home spouses who give up…
Together, my ex wife and I decided that I would give up my job in sales to stay home and raise our two children. When my youngest child left for college, my ex wife filed for divorce. We were married for 19 years. I sought full-time employment, but due to the economy, I must also rely on the modest alimony payment that my ex wife agreed to during our divorce.
I am concerned about how changes…
TRUTH: Florida courts can only award permanent alimony after making findings of fact that NO OTHER form of alimony is fair and reasonable. Before awarding permanent alimony the court must first determine that due to the facts of the case rehabilitative alimony, bridge-the-gap alimony, durational alimony, lump-sum alimony or some combination of the above will not provide the spouse with the ability to become self-sufficient.
TRUTH: Before awarding permanent alimony, Fla. Stat., §61.08 requires the court to make a finding that no other form of alimony is fair and reasonable under the circumstances of the parties. An award of permanent alimony may follow a marriage of long duration if appropriate, of moderate duration if clear and convincing evidence exists, or of short duration if exceptional circumstances exist. Generally, awards of permanent alimony are made only in long term marriages where the requesting party needs support AND the other party has the ability to pay. But “permanent” alimony is often not permanent at all. It terminates automatically if the recipient spouse remarries. And (unless the parties specifically agreed to a non-modifiable alimony award), the courts may, and often do, reduce or terminate a permanent alimony award based upon substantial changes in the circumstances of either the payor or the recipient spouse. Those circumstances include retirement, the existence of a supportive relationship, an increase in the income (and decreased need) of a recipient spouse, and a reduction in the income of the payor spouse.
TRUTH: The ONLY TIME alimony cannot be modified is if both parties agreed to non-modifiable permanent alimony in writing. Florida courts CANNOT order non-modifiable alimony. Alimony is always modifiable including when a payor spouse reasonably retires.
TRUTH: Florida law prohibits consideration of a new spouse’s income. This income can only be considered if the payor spouse has intentionally taken actions to avoid paying alimony (i.e. diverted funds into the new spouses account, etc.). A significant reduction in the payor’s expenses may provide the basis for a modification; however, the court must first find that the recipient spouse needs the increase in alimony. If the income of the payor spouse increases substantially, the court may, but is not required to, increase the alimony. What the court does not do, absent fraud, is to add the new spouse’s income to the payor spouse to warrant an increase in the recipient spouse’s alimony.
TRUTH: The standard of living is only one of ten (10) factors the court must evaluate when determining alimony. The Court in Donoff v. Donoff, 940 So.2d 1221 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006) specifically stated “the standard of living IS NOT A SUPER FACTOR in setting the amount of alimony – trumping all others.”
TRUTH: Permanent alimony is always modifiable unless the parties have specifically agreed otherwise. However, Article I of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 10, of the Florida Constitution prohibit the application of ex post facto laws. Also, the ability of current permanent alimony payors to go back to change their alimony obligations based solely on changes to the statute would increase litigation and endanger current alimony recipients who have made financial decisions based on the understanding that their award, while modifiable, was for an award of permanent alimony (understanding that remarriage, cohabitation, retirement, or other such substantial change in circumstance could always result in a change in the alimony). Again, allowing such modification could result in the impoverishment of the recipient spouse and result in added expenses for taxpayers.
TRUTH: Per Florida case law, retirement at the presumptive retirement age has historically constituted a basis for modification of a permanent alimony award. An automatic termination of alimony upon retirement and without judicial oversight could leave the recipient impoverished and force him or her to seek financial assistance from the state. Also, many retire from one profession and commence a new job, so their income may not have changed despite the “initial” retirement.
TRUTH: Florida statutes require the courts to base the amount of an alimony award on, among nine other factors, the needs and necessities of life as established during the parties’ marriage. Numerous cases prohibit alimony awards which exceed a payor’s ability to pay. A strict formula would eliminate the discretion the courts need to properly address the relevant factors. Few states follow formulas; the vast majority require the courts to consider factors on a case by case basis.
We are committed to preserving Florida’s families. If you or a loved one would be impacted by changes to Florida’s current alimony statutes, we invite you to contact us and learn how you can get involved.