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Florida House and Senate bills seek to reform alimony law

Proposed and identical legislation recently introduced in both the Florida Senate and House of Representatives seeks to materially modify existing state law governing alimony. Current statutory provisions are seen by some critics as being unduly harsh and anachronistic, with awards of permanent alimony too frequently being made.

"Lifetime alimony sends the wrong message to those getting a divorce in our state," says Rep. Ritch Workman (R-Breward), sponsor of HB 549.

"I support helping the lower-earning spouse during a transition period after a marriage ends," adds Workman, "but there are too many injustices in the current system."

Workman's bill, which is sponsored in the Florida Senate by Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R-Miami-Dade), would work a number of changes and is heavily influenced by alimony reform movements in other states, chiefly Massachusetts and New Jersey. Among other things, HB 549 and Senate Bill 748 contain provisions that would:

  • Terminate alimony upon full retirement age, excepting extreme circumstances
  • Limit alimony based on the length of marriage
  • Cap alimony at an amount not exceeding 20 percent of a payer's net monthly income
  • Revise cohabitation standards
  • Bar a court from considering a new spouse's income in a modification
  • Enable a payer to renegotiate alimony and modify a judgment based on the new law

That last point is deemed as especially critical to proponents of change. When some aspects of Florida's alimony law were changed last year, existing payers were not allowed to revise judgments, creating a result in which different laws were being applied to persons in identical or highly similar circumstances.

We will keep readers apprised of any material developments involving these new bills.

Source: Huffington Post, "Alimony reform sweeps the Coast: MA, New Jersey, and Florida" Nov. 16, 2011

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