Approximately 230 couples get divorced each day in Florida. With each individual case, the judge assigned tries to make things even and fair. However, because alimony has almost always been completely up to the judge’s discretion, what is considered “even and fair” varies from judge to judge. Permanent alimony has always been common in Florida, meaning alimony lasts until the recipient dies or remarries. But alimony has been under attack for years now. Many argue that permanent alimony is very outdated, and that Florida needs a formula for determining alimony, rather than leaving the decision up to individual judges.
The Legislature has been working on a bill to make permanent alimony a thing of the past. The bill proposes a set formula that would take into account the length of a marriage when determining alimony amounts. Marriages lasting less than 2 years would generally not qualify for alimony. The bill also proposes a capped amount of the payer’s income that would go to alimony and child support.
Many praised the bill, saying these alimony changes have been needed for years. But others attacked these proposed changes, saying that this only harms woman, who are most often the recipients of alimony. Lawmakers liked the bill, and it looked as though the alimony changes were coming soon. But the House suddenly adjourned, and the bill was not passed. Why? One of the Senators insisted on making 50/50 time sharing for child custody a requirement.
The Senate and the House disagreed on this, with the Senate pushing for the 50/50 requirement, and the House proposing that judges still get to choose.
The majority of people agree that alimony needs to be standardized, but does it always make sense for child custody to be standardized? Having a standard, required 50/50 time sharing law takes the emphasis off the children and instead puts the emphasis on the parents.
It will be interesting to see what alimony and child custody changes are in Florida’s future.
Read the original article here.
Alimony has always been a controversial topic. While the reasoning behind it is very logical and sound, various interpretations of how it should be applied have been met with anger, hostility, and fear.
Well, if you find yourself experiencing one of those emotions, you may be in luck. Some proposed changes to Florida’s alimony laws intend to soothe some nerves and modernize the system.
While fights over alimony laws have certainly made headlines before, it seems as if many of the various involved camps are finally on-board with a new plan: To eliminate permanent alimony, and determine payout amounts based on the length of the marriage, and a couple’s combined earnings. Not everyone is optimistic about the measure (HB 943), saying that the new system favors those who make the money.
Republican Rep. Colleen Burton disagrees that it favors any one side, saying that the new measure will “streamline, as much as possible, a difficult process for any family that’s going through a divorce, all the while, leaving the final determination in the hands of a judge.”
The details of the measure are quite complex, but distilled down, it is as follows:
- Temporary alimony will remain unchanged, while eliminating bridge-the-gap, durational, permanent, and rehabilitative alimonies.
- Marriages under 20 years will be considered short-term, while 20+ years will be long-term. Short-term payment amounts are less than long-term, as is the time period in which payments will occur.
- Alimony amounts will be determined by taking the higher-earner’s salary minus the lower-earner’s salary, and then factoring in the length of the marriage.
There are many other factors that come into play, such as the length of time alimony must be paid, but the main point of the measure is to simplify the rules of how alimony is applied.
Existing alimony agreements will not be affected, but any active modifications will be subject to the new rules, as will any new alimony agreements. Keep in mind, this measure has not passed yet, but it does have a lot of support behind it.
If you ever have any questions or concerns about alimony agreements, do not hesitate to get in touch with an experienced family law attorney. They will be able to put to rest any concerns you might have.
Alimony has been a hot topic lately. Massachusetts recently changed its out-of-date alimony laws, and now Florida and New Jersey are hoping to do the same.
Before Massachusetts changed its alimony laws, the standard order for alimony in these 3 states was lifetime permanent alimony. The laws were made when the divorce rate was much lower and many married women didn’t work outside the home. Florida alimony law is vague, and payment decisions are left up to the judge’s decision. Many agree that Florida law needs guidelines for the duration and amount of alimony. If there were set guidelines, it’s possible that more couples in Florida would settle out of court.
For many divorces, lifetime alimony payments just don’t make sense anymore. In fact, many people are suffering under these decades-old laws. Under current Florida law, the default order is for the higher earner in the marriage to pay the lower earner until death, regardless of either person’s employment status. Going back to court to request adjustments in alimony payments can be costly and time consuming. And it doesn’t always lead to a reduced payment.
72 year old Michael Morgan is one Florida resident who has been trying for years to change the $2,100 monthly payment he must make to his ex-wife. He is now bedridden with advanced Alzheimer’s, and his current wife Linda is his full time caretaker. Linda and Michael have been to court 5 times in the last few years requesting to reduce or end these ordered payments for a marriage that ended 20 years ago. Despite 5 attempts, Michael must continue to pay a $2,100 monthly payment.
Alan Frisher, co-director of Florida Alimony Reform (FAR), says his group has been pushing lawmakers to change alimony laws for 2 years. “You should be able to move on with your life,” he says. “The way it stands now is absolutely wrong.”
Read original article here.
It seems that the tale of a spouse not paying their child/spousal support is as old as time. Even in this day and age where you can’t wiggle a toe without a GPS satellite pin-pointing your location, it seems as if people still try to get away with not paying their legally-mandated support.
One such case recently ended up with a Florida businessman going to jail for over $450,000 in child and spousal support payments for his ex-wife and children.
It had not been reported exactly how long the man was delinquent in his payments, but with that high a total, it is reasonable to assume his monthly payments were quite high. It’s possible that he got sick of paying, or that he fell on hard times and simply wasn’t able to pay any longer. In the eyes of the law, that does not excuse him, however. Especially since he waited long enough for the police to have to get involved.
According to reports, he was also charged with a separate account of dodging nearly $160,000 in child support.
He is currently being held in Orange County jail, with his bail amount set at $25,000. If you are having a hard time collecting your child support or spousal support payments, or are finding it hard to meet your required payment amount, do not hesitate to get in touch with an experienced attorney immediately. They will be able to help you get the problem sorted out so that both sides are happy.
Going through any sort of family change can be rough, whether it’s a divorce, or changing a child support arrangement, or nullifying an existing spousal support agreement. Whenever loved ones are put into the middle of a situation, it can get very stressful very quickly.
While it is understandable that a lot of that stress comes merely from the subject matter at hand, recently a group of individuals gathered to protest, saying that a lot of the difficulties are the fault of the general state of family law in Florida.
One particular individual, Ray Granstrom, was not happy with how his child custody agreement came out. He considers himself to be a loving, active father, but the state considers him nothing more than a visitor in his children’s lives.
Libertarian governor candidate Adrian Wyllie showed up at the protest as well, declaring that the current system creates “fathers that have absolutely no role in the children’s life, and these are good fathers. And mothers, though a rarity it happens as well, who are shut out of their children’s lives. Not for any real cause, not for neglect, not for mistreatment, but by arbitrary decisions of a court that has too much power.”
Wyllie went on to state that he thinks the power of decisions like these should not be in family courts, but rather simply left to the civil courts.
Even though there were only a few individuals who showed up to protest, the fact that there were any people who felt as if the state failed them is somewhat alarming.
Alimony laws in Florida have been under some scrutiny in the past month since a front-page story was done on them in early December.
While the current alimony laws serve many purposes, some groups are beginning to questions whether they are still viable in this day and age.
The process of alimony started back in medieval times. Called by its Latin term, alimonia, it meant that the husband was responsible for all of the wife’s necessities after they were divorced. In an even more basic form, it was called the Code of Hammurabi in ancient Babylonia, and involved the man simply returning the dowry.
Alimony laws in Florida are leaps and bounds more evolved than that, but critics of the laws are saying that they reflect values more akin to the 1950s than the 2010s. They go on to say that while in times past, women were more likely to be full-time homemakers, nowadays, women are much more empowered and are much more likely to be full-time businesswomen with high-power careers.
For that reason, the critics say that Florida’s alimony laws need to become more modern, and reflect the changes in society. The main part of alimony law that critics are vocal about is the idea of lifetime alimony, saying that it is completely outdated, and more often than not, only serves to prevent the breadwinner from retiring.
Supporters of alimony laws state that the rules and regulations are there for a valid reason, and serve very real needs. They are afraid of what any broad-sweeping updates will do, and are fighting against any new legislation.
It is unknown what will happen with Florida alimony laws, but it seems as if the world is changing year upon year, so it might only be a matter of time.
In April, the Florida Senate voted in favor of Senate Bill 718, better known as the alimony reform bill. This bill would greatly affect the current alimony laws in the state by altering time tables for alimony and ending permanent alimony, as well.
Permanent alimony was instituted years ago when the husband worked and the wife stayed home to raise the children. Today in the majority of marriages, both spouses work and therefore should a divorce occur, both spouses have means of support other than alimony.
Although the bill would ban permanent alimony, it would keep intact three types of alimony: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative and durational alimony.
Unfortunately for supporters of alimony reform, Florida Governor Rick Scott vetoed Senate Bill 718 last month. Governor Scott stated he couldn’t support the bill because it applies retroactively.
“As a husband, father and grandfather, I understand the vital importance of family. I have concluded that I cannot support this legislation because it applies retroactively and thus tampers with settled economic expectations of many Floridians who have experienced divorce,” said Governor Scott.
Family Law Reform, a group that supported the bill, expressed its disappointment with the veto and said the group was “exploring all options.”
Those against passage of the bill heralded Governor Scott’s veto. Carrin Porras, an attorney and Chair of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar, issued a statement thanking the governor for his “courage and willingness to stand up for the best interest of Floridians.” He also said the bill would have “discouraged parents from staying at home to raise their children by creating a serious risk that if they stayed home and later got divorce, the chances of receiving support would be very slim.”
On April 4, the Florida Senate voted 29-11 in favor of Senate Bill 718, which is also known as the alimony reform bill.
Bill 718 eliminates permanent alimony, which requires one spouse, usually the male, to pay alimony for the rest of his life. Permanent alimony was instituted years ago when the husband was the money maker of the family, and the wife stayed home to raise the children. In the majority of modern marriages, both spouses work and, thus, in the event of a divorce, have means of support other than alimony.
According to an article on yahoo.com, the bill “replaces permanent alimony with bridge-the gap, rehabilitative, or durational alimony to consistently ensure swift resolution for families.”
With the passing of the bill, the former spouse must prove they have a need for alimony and must also prove the obligor has the ability to pay alimony, as well.
Senate Bill 718 was sponsored by Senator Kelli Stargel because she felt the state needed a fair way to deal with this emotional issue. “This bill creates guidelines for our judges to follow, but maintains judicial discretion,” Senator Stargel said.
A not for profit organization, Family Law Reform, fought for passage of the bill. Alan Frisher, co-founder and president of the organization, said that while the bill is not perfect, it is fair and equitable and updates Florida’s antiquated alimony laws.
House Bill 231, which is companion legislation to Senate Bill 718, will go to the House for a full vote next week.
Florida is one of a handful of states that allows permanent lifetime alimony that does not end at retirement, but only ceases upon death or remarriage of the recipient. This law can have devastating consequences for the former spouse who has to pay out this permanent alimony.
Florida Alimony Reform (FAR) is America’s largest alimony reform group and represents more than 2,000 families across the state that, according to the group, are being crippled by Florida’s alimony laws.
During the 2012 legislative session, FAR proposed an overhaul of Florida’s alimony laws, which in FAR’s opinion, are outdated and antiquated. Alan Frisher, Divorce Financial Analyst and Co-Director of Florida Alimony Reform, stated that the chances for reform had looked encouraging, but then took a turn for the worse, when the Senate sponsor for alimony reform did not adopt the House Bill and also did not present a Senate version of the bill that allowed for any significant change from current law.
Frisher stated that current Florida alimony law is harmful to many families and taxpayers, with ultimate financial benefit not going to the alimony payer, but instead to Family Law attorneys who represent their clients in court. He also added that numerous articles have been published that relate how permanent alimony has adversely affected families for generations.
The revisions to the alimony law that FAR is requesting reflects changing social and demographic patterns, as well as the the toll the economic slump has brought to this country.
Two issues at the center of the alimony debate are the amount of discretion judges throughout the state have in each case, and the fact that Florida is one of only a few states in the entire country that grant permanent alimony.
Supporters of the current alimony law say that current laws are progressive and that, according to Florida Bar Family Section Chairman David Manz, “we’ve changed substantially in two years, and are continuing to do so.”
Panama City Family Attorney Gerard Virga said that “the government isn’t going to do anything that’s going to make them pay more money in social welfare programs, so they have an interest honestly, the state does, in maintaining a form of alimony.”
FAR is already working on another reform bill for the next legislative session and hoping for a better outcome in 2013.
Lump Sum Alimony Explained
(not really a type of alimony, but how the alimony is paid)
There are several types of alimony which can be awarded in a dissolution of marriage (divorce) proceeding in Florida. In the next couple of weeks I will be discussing the different types of alimony and under what circumstances the Court may award each type of alimony.
Lump Sum alimony is awarded, if at all, to a spouse that may be unable to collect permanent periodic or durational alimony because the other spouse may flee the courts’ jurisdiction or the divorce is so contentious that the Court may determine it is in the best interest of both parties to reduce or eliminate the need for future interaction between the parties, and said alimony is necessary to sustain the standard of living achieved during the marriage.
-Nelson Llabona, Esq.