The Florida legislature is currently dealing with two bills dealing with alimony, and the bills may bring a dramatic change to some of the rules. Most of the changes are coming to long-term marriages — those that last 17 years or longer. The changes are evidently designed to make things more predictable, though the actual effects remain to be seen. The overall thrust of the changes, however, may make it more difficult for the spouse receiving alimony.
One of the changes may be purely rhetorical. Currently, divorce after a long-term marriage may lead to what is called “permanent alimony,” which is exactly what it sounds like: it is designed so one party pays the other on a permanent basis. The changes, however, now refer to permanent alimony as “long-term” alimony, suggesting that courts need to decide the duration of the alimony.
This might be beneficial for parties currently paying alimony but considering retirement. In fact, one of the other changes addresses this problem head on. Imagine you have been divorced for some time and are approaching the age of retirement. You are required to pay a certain amount each month in alimony and are afraid retirement will make you unable to complete this obligation. Under the present law, it is not always possible to lower alimony payments due to a decrease in income from retirement. The new law allows courts to consider retirement as a legal “change of circumstance,” making it easier to reduce alimony payments in such situations.
Another change updates a change that was made in 2010. Prior to 2010, alimony payments ended when the receiving party got married, but did not end if the receiving party was simply cohabitating with another person. This meant that a person could move in with a new significant other, buy a house, open a joint checking account, and do many of the things that married couples do without actually getting married — all while still receiving alimony. The legislature recognized this and passed a law allowing courts to reduce or terminate alimony if the receiving party was in a “supportive relationship” with a significant other.
With this change in place, courts began cutting off alimony payments for cohabitating couples. However, some of the couples split up, and courts reinstated alimony. This makes life uncertain — unfairly, some would argue — for the spouse paying alimony. The new law prevents courts from reinstating alimony in these scenarios.
The new laws are not yet in effect, and in fact have not yet passed the state senate (the bill has passed the house, however). Nevertheless, changes in the law almost always bring unexpected results. If you have questions or are considering divorce, contact a Florida Family Law Attorney. A Family Law Attorney here in Jacksonville can help you through this difficult time.