One prominent aspect of Florida’s new alimony law is its focus not only on ending permanent alimony, but also on creating a structure and standard for obligors – people who pay alimony – to ask the state court to reduce or eliminate that legal obligation when they retire. Perhaps because Florida is arguably the main U.S. state to which people aspire to retire, it is not a surprise that a vocal group of advocates here have long promoted this change in the law.
The campaign raised specters of elderly alimony obligors paying down their retirement savings to support ex-spouses while themselves disabled or in retirement homes. Mostly supporters pointed to the need for a right to retire for payors who were unable to stop working because of their alimony obligations. The movement took several years and three vetoed bills before the governor finally signed this year’s version of the legislation, which took effect July 1, 2023.
Petition in anticipation of retirement
When a spousal-support payor anticipates retiring within six months or has retired, the new law authorizes filing a petition in court asking the judge to reduce or terminate the alimony responsibilities. To modify the obligation, the court must make specific, written factual findings that:
- The petitioner has retired or taken “demonstrative and measurable efforts or actions to retire.”
- They have reached their official retirement age for Social Security purposes or the “customary retirement age for his or her profession.”
The payor must prove that retirement lessens their ability to pay alimony and if the court agrees, the obligee (recipient) has the opportunity to show that the alimony should not be reduced or terminated.
To decide whether to grant the petition to modify, the judge must reconsider the factors the law required for the initial award of alimony as well as several new factors specifically for the retirement petition:
- Obligor’s age and health
- Nature of the obligor’s work
- Customary retirement age in that profession
- Reason for retirement plus likelihood of restarting work
- Obligee’s needs and ability to provide for their “own basic needs”
- Financial impact of a reduction or termination of alimony on the recipient
- Each parties’ assets no matter when acquired and whether either of them engaged in “wasteful depletion of any marital assets received by him or her” in the divorce
- Each parties’ income during and since the marriage
- Availability since divorce to each party of Social Security, pension or retirement plan benefits
- Obligor’s compliance with the current alimony obligation
We will keep our readers informed of court decisions that interpret these new provisions going forward. Anyone with questions about the new retirement petition should consult with an experienced Florida family lawyer.