What Could Proposed Changes To Florida's Alimony Laws Mean For You?

If you and your spouse have been dealing with turbulence in your marriage for some time, you may feel a divorce is the only remaining option that will allow you both to pursue happiness. For those living (and divorcing) in the state of Florida, this can often mean an alimony award to the lower-earning spouse for a period of time after the divorce has been finalized. However, potential changes to the way alimony is awarded could impact your case if you file after the new law takes effect. Read on to learn more about how alimony may be awarded in your specific situation, as well as how filing now (or waiting to file) could improve your financial prospects after divorce.

How is alimony awarded under current Florida laws?

One of the reasons lawmakers have been anxious (and attempting for years) to change Florida's divorce and alimony laws is because of the lack of uniformity among the different state courts. Current laws permit judges to exercise significant discretion in awarding alimony rather than abide by a standard formula, meaning that someone who files for divorce in Orlando may be awarded a significantly different monthly alimony payment than someone who files in Tampa. Florida is also one of the only states in the U.S. that permits what is essentially permanent alimony. Other states will prescribe a maximum amount of time for which alimony can be granted (usually enough time to permit the person receiving alimony to seek a college education or job training to become self-supporting). 

What changes can you expect if the new law goes into effect before your divorce is finalized?

Under the proposed new law, alimony will be awarded based on a formula that takes into account the length of your marriage and the disparity between your earnings and your ex-spouse's. If you and your spouse have been married less than two years, alimony would be unavailable under the proposed new law. If you and your spouse have been married twenty years or more, you may be required to pay (or entitled to receive) a higher amount of alimony than would be awarded for a slightly shorter marriage.

One benefit of the proposed new law is its transparency. Rather than gambling on an alimony amount to be determined by the court (or hammered out with your spouse in a settlement conference), you'll be able to look up the income and marriage length guidelines to see how much you're likely to have to pay (or how much you can expect to receive). 

Should you delay your divorce filing to take advantage of the new laws?

Because this law will be enacted in 2016 at the earliest, those who are currently in the divorce process (as well as those who file for divorce before the law takes effect) will not be subject to the formula prescribed by the new law, even if the divorce isn't finalized until after the new law is on the books. Those who file for divorce after this bill has been signed into law by the Governor will be required to abide by its contents. This can mean that delaying a divorce filing could potentially allow your case to be decided under a different law.

However, there are no guarantees this bill will be passed -- and previous recent attempts to reform Florida alimony laws have been met with resistance and even a veto by the Governor. If this bill fails to gain enough traction to become law, you may find you spent six months longer in your marriage than you otherwise would have. However, for those who are concerned about the possibility of lifetime alimony, waiting to see how this legislative battle pans out may pay off.

For more information, contact a practice like Karp Law Offices