TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Among the bills making their way through the Florida Legislature in 2022 is one aimed at imposing limits on alimony payments when a marriage is dissolved.
House Bill 1395, called “Dissolution of Marriage” sets time limits and conditions for how alimony payments are made or received. The bill was proposed in the Judiciary Committee’s Property Rights subcommittee by Rep. Alex Andrade, R-Pensacola.
If Andrade’s proposed bill passes, it would change how alimony is calculated and collected. According to the bill’s text, the ways that court-ordered child support, spousal support from a previous marriage, and payments for insurance contributions, union dues, retirement and health insurance are all on the table for change.
HB 1395 said one change that would occur is a change to what the courts would qualify for adjustments to standards of living after a marriage is dissolved. Current law specifies that living standards are presumed reduced or lowered following the end of a marriage, when it comes to financial capability. This change is based on a couple’s end of joint income, and switch to two single incomes.
The bill’s language states that, should it pass, the presumption of lowered living standards “may be overcome by a preponderance of evidence.”
Additionally, when it comes to determining alimony, the bill proposes a change to how long it must be paid. If HB 1395 passes into law, different types of marriages would be codified into state statutes, dependent on the amount of time a couple was married.
As written, a short-term marriage would be one of “fewer than 10 years,” rather than the current seven. A moderate-term marriage would be between 10 and 20 years of being wed, rather than the current seven to 17 years, and a long-term marriage would be defined as a marriage lasting 20 years or longer, rather than 17 or more.
Under these new definitions of marriage lengths, alimony would be set based upon the length of a marriage. First, the bill proposes creating an awarded “bridge-the-gap alimony” to cover payments to a spouse for up to two years. Such alimony would be terminated should someone remarry or die before the set time completes.
Another form of alimony, rehabilitative, would now have a five year cut-off. Rehabilitative alimony, according to the bill, is awarded for helping one party establish their own self-support following the end of a marriage. This would be intended to cover either redevelopment of previous skills or credentials, or to acquire new education, training or work experience to gain new employment skills or credentials.
To gain rehabilitative alimony, there has to be a plan. If that plan completes before the set length of an award for rehabilitative alimony, the payments end when the plan finishes.
Durational alimony, meant to give economic assistance for a set time, would be changed to have a new requirement for couples breaking apart.
Rather than be awarded generally following a marriage’s end, durational alimony would not be allowed for marriages that last fewer than three years. On top of that, if durational alimony is awarded, the bill sets time limits for alimony payments based on the length of time a couple was married.
The payment times are set as:
- Payments for 50% of the time for a marriage between three to 10 years
- Payments for 60% of a marriage lasting between 10 and 20 years
- Payments for 75% of a marriage longer than 20 years
Still, the bill also proposes that if a party wants alimony and is “either permanently mentally or physically disabled and unable to provide” for themselves, in full or in part, or is the full-time in-home caregiver to a child with permanent mental or physical disabilities, a Florida court may extend how long alimony is paid, until either the child dies or the court finds the need for alimony ends.
According to the bill, the marriage’s length is “the period of time beginning on the date of marriage and ending on the date an action for dissolution of marriage is filed.”
Essentially, it counts the date of a marriage starting to the date either spouse files for divorce as the time for determining alimony limits. Courts will also be required to “make written findings of fact” for awarding multiple types of alimony, if necessary. The courts may find additional types to be inappropriate, according to HB 1395’s bill text.
In rare cases, permanent alimony may be awarded only when no other form of alimony “is appropriate or reasonable” according to current Florida law. HB 1395’s instead removes the ability to receive permanent alimony.
According to analysis of the bill, the Florida Legislature currently allows adultery to factor into how alimony may be determined, and that spouses seeking alimony over a dissolution of marriage due to adultery have to prove it occurred in court
So, if you want to divorce your spouse because they cheated on you, and still receive payments, you must prove to the court that the adultery occurred, putting the burden of proof on the alleged victim of adultery, not the spouse accused of cheating.
Andrade’s bill removes the ability to use adultery as a factor of determining alimony payments. Additionally, if the spouse paying alimony, the obligor, reaches retirement age before the end of the alimony duration, a court may choose to let alimony end upon retirement.
However, if the spouse chooses not to retire and keeps working, and earns more than 50% of their active gross income from the three years before retirement age, the court can extend alimony payment times until the actual retirement, or until their income falls below the 50% margin.
Additional changes involving child support and time-sharing for a minor child were also proposed by HB 1395. Specifically, equal time-sharing, or 50/50 time sharing, would become the preference of the courts by the bill’s passage into law. Legislative analysis says the bill would amend state statutes to “create a presumption that equal time-sharing” is in the child’s best interest, unless the parents agree to a different time-sharing arrangement.