New 2013 Alimony Law – A Detailed Explanation

new florida alimony statute 2013The new 2013  Florida Alimony Law is in Governor Scott’s office for signature. During the next five days we will find out if Florida alimony law will receive the most radical overhaul in the last several decades. If signed the new alimony statute will be effective on July 1, 2013. There are parts of the alimony statute that will be phased in for prior judgments. What follows is a quick overview of the new law. Visit this page at intervals because we will be updating the information as it is available. Please note the new laws for custody and other issues will be covered separately but are within the text of the new law that is before the Governor.

Subject

New

Now

Definition of a Long Term marriage

20 years or more, measured from the date of marriage to the date of filing the petition for divorce.

17 years or more, measured in the same way

Definition of a mid-term marriage

More than 11 years, but less than 20 years

More than 7 years, but less than 17 years

Definition of a Short-term marriage

Less than 11 years

Less than 7 years

Why these definitions matter:   Definitions such as this determine initially whether alimony will be considered, the type of alimony, the length of alimony, and the amount considered.

Permanent alimony

No permanent alimony. It is completely eliminated as a category

Permanent alimony, also called permanent periodic alimony. This is the type of alimony that can last a lifetime. It is almost always modifiable. This is the most common form granted in long term marriages

Priority of Alimony Types to be Ordered

Priority of alimony in order: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, and any other form

No priority rules are in place

The types of alimony that will be remaining: Bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational. These types are fixed term or short term and are given for a specific purpose. Bridge-the-gap is normally the shortest term. Rehabilitative is next and must be for a specific plan that restores the income-earning ability of the other spouse. Durational is potentially the longest term form of alimony

Court’s Justification for Decisions

There are stronger requirements for written reasoning on type of alimony, length, and the amount of alimony

There are requirements but not as strong and not as specific

Initial Determination

Court shall first make a written determination that the other party has the ability to pay 

Determination of need is the first consideration

The new 2013 alimony law build’s in new rules that mainly protect spouse’s that may be ordered to pay alimony. The new rule requiring an evaluation on “ability to pay” is a completely new approach and ensures no one will be ordered to pay an amount beyond their ability.

Courts were always required to detail reasons for their decisions, in writing, within the text of the final judgment. However, many judgments lacked those required reasons. The new 2013 law strengthens the need for written justification and will have the effect of forcing courts to make a more thoughtful decision that is based on actual facts.

Marital Standard of Living

A court cannot consider the standard of living during the marriage as a way to determine the need for alimony. And the starting point of consideration is that both parties will have a lower standard of living after the marriage

The standard of living is frequently used as a desired living standard for the future – and provides justification for setting a given amount of alimony

Live Insurance to Guarantee Future Alimony Payments

Life insurance to secure alimony can only be granted upon a showing of special circumstances (reasoning above and beyond normal, everyday situations). The availability, cost, and financial impact of purchasing life insurance must be considered in the overall decision. The amount of life insurance is modifiable downward if alimony is reduced

The payer of alimony is routinely ordered to arrange for life insurance.  The courts that order life insurance frequently ignore the availability and cost of the insurance. There is no set mechanism to later reduce the amount of life insurance if the underlying alimony payment is reduced

Supportive relationships – Cohabitation – person receiving alimony

A Court SHALL reduce or terminate alimony upon a showing of cohabitation by the person receiving alimony

The Court MAY reduce alimony upon showing of cohabitation

Supportive relationships – Cohabitation – person paying alimony

Cohabitation may not be used as a reason to  increase someone’s alimony obligation

Any source of income, even from a significant other may trigger a modification

Short term marriages – under 11 years

The court can award durational alimony for a period but for now longer than 50 % of the marriage length and must not exceed 25 % of the payer’s gross income

Durational alimony can be for the amount of years of the marriage. There is no cap

Mid-term marriage – 11 – 20 years

Alimony is capped at 35 % of payer’s gross income

There is no cap

Long-term marriage – 20 years and over

Alimony is capped at 38% of payer’s gross income

There is no cap

Income from outside the marriage

Income from outside the marriage, that was not relied upon to support the marriage cannot be considered in an alimony decision

All sources of income or resources may be considered

Income and Assets of new spouse

Income and assets of a new spouse cannot be considered in an alimony modification

Income and assets of a later spouse may be considered in any modification

Unemployment of Either Party – Imputation of Income - Completely new standards

If a spouse has been unemployed less than 1 year, the court will impute (consider them to be earning) 90 percent of their prior income

If a spouse has been unemployed for 1-2 years, the court will impute (consider them to be earning) 80 percent of their prior income

If a spouse has been unemployed for 2-3 years, the court will impute (consider them to be earning) 70 percent of their prior income

If a spouse has been unemployed for 3-4 years , the court will impute (consider them to be earning) 60 percent of their prior income

If a spouse has been unemployed for 4-5 years , the court will impute (consider them to be earning) 50 percent of their prior income

If a spouse has been unemployed for more than 5 years. the court will impute (consider them to be earning) 40 percent of their prior income or minimum wage, whichever is more.

To defeat imputation of income, must be disabled by standards of the Social Security Administration

Later Income Increase & Modification of Alimony

An increase in income must last one continuous year before used as a reason for a attempted upward modification

Any increase, at any time may open up the subject of modification – even if the increase is short term

Alimony Modification When Child Support Ends

Child support termination may not be used as a reason to modify alimony

Alimony may be modified on a showing that more money is available due to child support termination

Retirement & termination or modification of Alimony

Retirement is defined as a reason for modification or termination of alimony. The petition may be filed in anticipation of retirement (before the actual retirement)

Retirement is considered and there is a right to terminate. But that right is not as defined as it will be under the new statute. A petition normally must be filed at the time of retirement – not before

Attorney fees awarded for unnecessary litigation (drawing out cases)

The court may award attorney fees against a party that unnecessarily drags out an alimony modification case

Attorney fees are mostly awarded to the person earning the lower income – regardless of conduct during the case

How the new alimony law applies to prior judgments
Alimony ordered after a court hearing

The new alimony law applies to alimony awards, based strictly on a court order entered any time before July 1, 2013

Alimony agreed upon in a settlement agreement

The new alimony law applies to final orders based on an settlement agreement entered into before July 1, 2013 IF the duration of marriage was 15 years or less and the agreed upon alimony award exceeds the duration of marriage

When you can file for Modification if the new Alimony law does apply to your situation:

If the Alimony award/agreement is for 15 years or more – you can file a modification any time after July 1, 2013

If the Alimony award/agreement is for 8 – 15 years – you can file a modification any time after July 1, 2014

If the Alimony award/agreement is for less than 8 years – you can file a modification any time after July 1, 2015

Please check back. We will provide updates on this page on the status of the new law and how it will change alimony cases in Florida.
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  • Alicia Hinkins Edwards

    I really thinks these laws should change most people who work are not rich they are barely making it in life and this has really handicapped our society..People who are able to work should work not depend on someone that is out there working every day and they just sit down on their do nothing and wait on someone else hard earned money.I was in my first marriage for 18 years and all I wanted was peace.I feel as long as there are no under age children involved and you are able to work then you should work!!!

    • HowardIken

      There are pros and cons to the new law. I believe it will be passed next year – with some concessions to the opposition.