Friday, May 3, 2013

Permanent Alimony Remains On the Books

Gov. Scott vetoes bill that would have ended permanent alimony

Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a law this week that would have set limits on the amount of alimony and the length of time that a spouse could receive alimony from the other spouse following a divorce.

The bill would have made it more difficult for those in shorter marriages to obtain alimony and would have restricted the duration of alimony payments to half of the duration of the marriage.

It also would have ended permanent alimony, one of six different types of alimony in Florida. The others are: durational alimony, rehabilitative alimony, bridge-the-gap alimony, temporary alimony and lump sum alimony.

Permanent alimony is usually awarded in long term marriages (17 years or more) and sometimes in medium term marriages (between seven and 17 years), but very rarely in short term marriages of less than seven years. The court is more likely to consider awarding permanent alimony in medium term marriages when there is more disparity of income and the marriage has lasted longer rather than a shorter length of time. The proposed law would have required that the spouse requesting alimony must establish a need for the amount requested and that the other spouse has the ability to pay that amount.

Among the many factors currently considered in awarding alimony:

  • The duration of the marriage 
  • The financial resources of each spouse
  • Earning potential, education, skills, etc. of each spouse 
  • The contribution each party made to the marriage, including homemaking, child care, helping the spouse build up their career, etc. 
  • The responsibilities of each spouse regarding their children 
  • Tax consequences of any alimony that is considered
  • Age and health (physical and mental)  

Sponsors and advocates of the 34-page bill said the new legislation would have been an important overhaul of alimony laws, but the governor said he was troubled by the fact that the bill would have applied retroactively. The bill also sought to redefine a long term marriage as 20 years or longer, a medium term marriage as between 11 and 20 years and a short term marriage as less than 11 years.

Gov. Scott said he had concerns about the bill

“The law also ensures that spouses who have sacrificed their careers to raise a family do not suffer financial catastrophe upon divorce, and that the lower-earning spouse and stay-at-home parent will not be financially punished,” said Gov. Scott in vetoing the bill, just four hours before it would have become law. “Floridians have relied on this system post-divorce and planned their lives accordingly."

Four other states have abolished permanent alimony.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

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