In March 2021, the Alimony Reform Bill was re-filed (for the 4th? 5th? 6th? time) in the Florida legislature. Below is a summary of the current version of the Bill and important distinctions in some of the language between the Senate Bill and the House Bill.
Senate Bill: SB 1922 (flsenate.gov) submitted by Senator Gruters
House Bill: House Bill 1559 (2021) – The Florida Senate (flsenate.gov) submitted by Rodriguez; Andrade; (co-introducers) McClain; Roach
SUMMARY HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PROPOSED SENATE AND HOUSE BILLS
- No Permanent Alimony.
- The Court may only order bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative or durational alimony or a combination thereof.
- The Court shall prioritize bridge-the-gap alimony, then rehabilitative alimony over other forms of alimony.
- The Court shall make written factual findings regarding the party’s need for alimony and the other party’s ability to pay alimony.
- When considering the standard of living for an award of alimony the Court shall take into consideration that both parties will have a lowered standard of living after the dissolution of marriage.
- An award of bridge-the-gap alimony is not modifiable in amount or duration.
- The length of an award of durational alimony may not exceed 50% of the length of the marriage. Note, the Senate Bill language firmly states alimony may not exceed 50% of the marriage. While the House Bill also refers to durational alimony not exceeding 50% of the marriage, it is less firm, leaving the award open-ended for the Court in some circumstances to award alimony of more than 50% of the marriage. See below for more details.
- The amount of durational alimony shall be the lesser of the party’s reasonable need or 25% of the difference between the parties’ net income.
- There is a presumption that equal timesharing is in the best interests of the minor child(ren).
- If more than 365 days have elapsed after the date of service of the petition for dissolution of marriage, the Court shall upon request of either party grant a final judgment of dissolution of marriage and reserve jurisdiction on all other substantive issues.
LANGUAGE EXCLUSIVE TO SENATE BILL SB1922
- The Court may grant permanent alimony only if the parties enter into an agreement for permanent alimony.
- The obligee, not obligor, shall purchase or maintain a life insurance policy on the obligor’s life.
- The length of an award of rehabilitative alimony shall be the shorter of five (5) years or the limit set forth in the durational alimony section.
- The alimony award terminates when the obligor reaches full retirement age as determined by the United States Social Security Administration, with the caveat, unless the obligor has not paid durational alimony for a period equal to 50% of the length of the marriage and the obligee has not reached minimum age to qualify for Social Security benefits and the obligee would meet the qualifications for the Medicaid Medically Needy program.
- The Court may terminate an alimony award and allow the obligor to retire before full retirement age if the Court finds the obligor’s retirement is reasonable for the given profession. In this circumstance the Court shall consider the obligor’s age, health, motivation for retirement, type of work and typical retirement age for the line of work, in addition to the obligee’s and obligor’s needs and necessities of life, and the impact that a termination/reduction of alimony would have on the obligee.
LANGUAGE EXCLUSIVE TO HOUSE BILL HB1559
- The party seeking alimony has the burden of proof to demonstrate a need and that the other party has the ability to pay alimony.
- There is a rebuttable presumption that both parties will have a lower standard of living after the dissolution of marriage. This presumption may be overcome by a preponderance of the evidence.
- The Court may order any party who is ordered to pay alimony to purchase or maintain a life insurance policy.
- The length of an award of rehabilitative alimony may not exceed five (5) years or the duration established in the rehabilitative plan.
- When awarding durational alimony, the Court must make written findings that an award of another form of alimony, or a combination of the other forms of alimony, is not appropriate.
- The length of an award of durational alimony may not exceed 50% of the length of the marriage unless the party seeking alimony proves by a preponderance of the evidence the circumstances justifying the need for a longer award of alimony, which circumstances must be set out in writing by the Court.
- The Court must adjust a party’s net income for inflation using the Consumer Price Index issued by the United States Department of Labor.
- Support payments made to a party during the pendency of the dissolution proceeding and before alimony is awarded by the Court must be credited toward any future Court-ordered obligation.
- Where obligor has attained reasonable retirement age for his/her profession and has retired, it shall be considered a substantial change in circumstances as a matter of law. In determining whether retirement age is reasonable the Court shall consider obligor’s age, health, motivation for retirement, type of work, and normal retirement age for that field.
- Except for an order incorporating an agreement that is expressly non-modifiable, the amendments made by this act to Chapter 61 constitute a substantial change in circumstances for which an obligor may seek a modification of the amount or duration of alimony.