In the past, Florida was known for its lenient alimony laws. It was one of few states that offered permanent alimony. This meant that a person could potentially get alimony for the rest of their life.
This is no longer the case. Florida Gov. Rick DeSantis has been trying for many years to change the state’s alimony laws and this time, he succeeded. After four tries and almost a decade, DeSantis repealed permanent alimony in Florida. Changes were made to Florida Statute 61.08 on July 1.
Many divorced people are in favor of the changes, especially those expected to pay alimony. They will no longer be ordered to pay alimony for life. There will still be three other types of alimony but none will be permanent. They are:
- Bridge-the-gap alimony. This type of alimony makes payments to help the supported ex-spouse make the transition to being single and financially independent. This alimony is designed to assist a party with short-term needs and may not last more than two years.
- Rehabilitative alimony. These are payments made as part of a specified plan made to help the ex-spouse learn or regain skills or acquire work experience needed to get employed.
- Durational alimony. These are payments made for a set period of time, primarily after a shorter marriage ends. The new law makes it so that durational alimony can only be awarded in marriages lasting longer than three years.
To determine which type of alimony is the most appropriate, the court is required to consider various factors. These factors may include the parties’ incomes and earning capacity, the duration of the marriage, the standard of living, and the anticipated needs of each party after divorce. It is possible for the court to award more than one type of alimony based on the circumstances.
Of course, there are those who oppose the bill. They believe the new law will impoverish older ex-spouses who have been homemakers and rely upon alimony payments to live. Proponents, on the other hand, say the bill adds clarity and stops ex-spouses from having to continue working past retirement so that they can keep making alimony payments to an ex-spouse from many years ago.
Alimony was originally created to support children. It was created at a time when men were the primary providers, so the payments would help ex-wives support themselves after a divorce. When no-fault divorce became popular, alimony remained a right. However, it became more conditional. By getting rid of permanent payments, alimony is becoming even more conditional and short-term in nature.
Other Changes to the Law
The new law also caps the length of time for awarding durational alimony. This type of alimony is awarded based on a percentage of the length of the marriage. For a short-term marriage (less than 10 years), durational alimony lasts no more than 50% of the length of the marriage. If the marriage lasted 10 to 20 years, durational alimony will last no more than 60% of the length of the marriage. In a long-term marriage lasting longer than 20 years, durational alimony is to last no more than 75% of the length of the marriage. It is possible for the caps to be extended, but only under exceptional circumstances.
Changes to Timesharing
The law also made changes to parental responsibility and timesharing, but those changes were apparently not as exciting as ending permanent alimony. Also on July 1, Florida Statute 61.13 was amended.
Under the previous law, there was no presumption when it came to allocating timesharing. There is no preference for either the mother or father, so the court was given a blank slate to determine the appropriate percentage of timesharing with each parent.
Under the amended law, the court must begin with the presumption that children should spend equal time with each parent. The court should aim for 50/50 custody in all cases, which is already the standard in many states. If the court does not want to order equal timesharing, one parent must prove “by a preponderance of the evidence” that equal timesharing is not in the best interest of the child. This is a tough standard to meet.
Also, the court is required to formulate a timesharing schedule that is in the best interest of each child. This means that equal timesharing will be the rule, although there can be exceptions.
Changes are Not Retroactive
Keep in mind that the while these changes to the laws are exciting, they are not retroactive. So if you were ordered to pay permanent alimony before July 1, 2023, that order will still be in effect. You will still be on the hook for making those payments as ordered. These laws apply only to orders made after July 1. However, modifications and terminations may be available in certain situations. Contact a lawyer to learn more about your legal options.
Also, be on the lookout for future changes to the laws. It is expected that 2023 will being about even more changes, particularly to modification of alimony, child support, and timesharing,
Seek Legal Help
If you are getting a divorce in Florida, you should be aware of the changes to the laws. Whether or not you have children, you will want to know about alimony or timesharing laws or both.
Broward County divorce attorney Scott J. Stadler can help you understand the laws involved. These changes can affect your divorce process as well as what will happen after the divorce. To schedule a consultation, fill out the online form or call (954) 346-6464.