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Florida may yet revamp alimony laws

Florida residents paying or receiving alimony as well as those contemplating divorce may be interested in recent actions by the state Legislature aimed at reviving a bill changing how alimony payments are awarded. The proposed changes would put a cap on some alimony payments and entirely eliminate others. Citing excessive hardship to those wage-earners obligated to support former spouses indefinitely even after relatively short marriages, reformers claim that Florida's current alimony laws are unfair and outdated.

Although a bill drastically altering existing spousal support practices was recently vetoed by the governor, some members of Florida's legislature are attempting to bring it back for another try. The laws changed by the bill would affect many if not most of the 80,000 Floridians who are divorced each year. Among the proposed modifications are ending or reducing alimony payments upon the retirement of the wage-earner and redefining what constitutes a "short-term" marriage to one that lasts less than 11 years. Another proposed change is that courts would presume that in the absence of abuse or other factors, both parents should have equal time with children post-divorce.

The bill vetoed by the governor would have made these changes retroactively, which is the reason the governor cites for his objection to it. Those Floridians who have depended upon alimony payments as their income for many years would be thrown into financial chaos, he claims. Reformers cite changes in society, including more women working and supporting themselves, as a reason for legal changes.

While none of these modifications have become law as yet, those with a stake in the issue might want to follow the progress of this bill. Meanwhile, a lawyer familiar with alimony and related aspects of divorce law can help those who wish to seek changes in their current legal obligations or entitlements as they relate to spousal maintenance.

Source: Herald Tribune, "Alimony reform returning to Tallahassee", Lloyd Dunkelberger, August 11, 2013