Florida’s New Alimony Law

Florida now has a new alimony law which went into effect July 1, 2023. This Bill – SB 1416– was signed into law a little over a week ago. Similar bills were vetoed three times over the last decade. The new law not only affects initial alimony awards, but can also affect alimony payments that are currently being made.

Florida’s New Alimony Law and Permanent Alimony

Arguably one of the biggest changes outlined in the new alimony law is the elimination of permanent alimony. Prior to the change in law, a court could award permanent alimony in marriages of long duration. Previously, a marriage was of long duration was a marriage that exceeded seventeen years.  The court would award permanent alimony if no other alimony was fair and reasonable under the circumstances. Once awarded, permanent alimony terminated upon the remarriage of the receiving party or death of either party. However, such alimony could also be modified or terminated based on factors such as a substantial change in circumstances. Now, with the new law, a court may only consider temporary, bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, or durational alimony.

Florida’s New Alimony Law and Rehabilitative Alimony

Another specific type of alimony which has been affected by the new alimony law is Rehabilitative alimony. Rehabilitative alimony is usually awarded to a needy divorcing spouse to assist with that spouse redeveloping skills or obtaining  training to eventually become self-supporting. Previously, the court had discretion as to the length of the award. With the new alimony law, a rehabilitative alimony award cannot exceed 5 years.

Who can receive alimony?

Prior to the new law, a divorcing spouse who had a need for economic assistance could receive durational alimony if there was evidence that the other spouse could afford to meet that need. As such, durational alimony awards were even possible in marriages of short duration. With the new alimony law, durational alimony cannot be awarded in marriages lasting less than 3 years. Furthermore, a durational alimony award may not exceed 50 percent of the length of a short-term marriage (which is now defined as any marriage lasting less than 10 years).

How are existing alimony payments affected?

The new alimony law provides additional grounds for a court to terminate or modify alimony payments. Under the new law, a court can reduce or terminate payments if the party paying alimony has reached normal retirement age. Normal retirement age can be based on the retirement age as defined by Social Security or on the customary retirement age for the payor’s profession. Additionally, the law outlines certain factors for the court to examine in determining whether to terminate or reduce alimony payments based on such retirement. For example, the court must consider the following factors, among others:

i. The age and health of the party who is obligated to pay

ii. The nature and type of work that was being performed by the paying party

iii. The social security benefits, retirement plan benefits and pension benefits available both to the paying party and the one receiving payments.

Are pending cases affected by the new law?

The court will need to apply the new law to all initial divorce petitions (petitions for dissolution of marriage) filed after July 1, 2023. Furthermore, the new law must also be applied to all cases which were filed prior to this date but are still pending.

In conclusion, the new law will have far reaching effects on divorcing spouses. It is important to have experienced legal assistance in navigating the new law and in determioning how this law how  can affect the alimony payments you receive or make. Contact Attorney Hall today, to guide you through this process.