Nearby State Proposes Update to Alimony Laws

A divorce can present a couple with many issues to determine either by agreement or through a court decision. The issue that grants courts with the most leeway, and can present the most extreme financial consequences, is whether alimony should be awarded.

There are currently two bills being considered in the Florida state legislature that are seeking to modify the state's current alimony laws. The bills are directed at ending the allowance of permanent alimony to one spouse, which can put the paying spouse in a significant financial burden. The proposed laws would make it so alimony payments are termed at a length equal to half the length of the marriage, but allows some exceptions. Opponents of the bill feel that it would clog the court system with new litigation, since it doesn't allow for any grey area and won't work for all divorcing couples. Proponents feel that it will lessen the burden imposed on them by permanent alimony payments, which they feel are unjust as currently applied.

In order to minimize any unfair financial effects that may be present due to a divorce, courts have the ability to award alimony to one of the spouses. Alimony is an allowance from the assets of one party to the other for the purposes of support. Alimony awards are based on the needs of the receiving spouse and the financial ability of the paying spouse. Although there are guiding factors for determining spousal support, courts still have extensive discretion regarding the length and amount of such payments. Alimony can be classified as either rehabilitative or permanent. Rehabilitative support is paid until the receiving spouse acquires necessary training or education and becomes self-supporting. Permanent alimony, however, is typically paid until the receiving spouse remarries or one of the spouses dies, although the death of the paying spouse doesn't necessarily end their obligation to pay. The proposed legislation above would end permanent alimony awards in most cases and instead term such payments at a length equal to half the length of the marriage.

Alimony can be justified in many divorce cases and can serve a good purpose under the right circumstances. It can also be burdensome to the paying spouse in other cases. Each party in a divorce case should be aware of their rights regarding spousal support.

Source: NBC 5 WPTV, "Push to end permanent alimony in Florida, proposed measure would change current spousal support law", Dan Corcoran, Feb. 20, 2013

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