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Florida legislature to vote on alimony reform

Florida is one of the few states that still allows courts to grant alimony payments for a lifetime -- some say it's a throwback to past family cultures, when women were less likely to work outside the home. Today, many other states have limitations on how alimony can be awarded, and Florida legislators have been trying to enact similar rules in the state for several years.

Two years ago the legislature passed a bill that would have eliminated the ability to grant lifelong alimony. At the time, the governor vetoed the effort, stating he was worried the bill would allow alimony to be taken away from individuals who were already receiving and relying on it.

This year, the legislature plans to consider a revised bill on the subject -- one that would not include the ability to take alimony away when it has already been granted. The bill is not finalized, but one thing likely to be included in the law is a requirement for judges to consider numerous factors before rewarding alimony. Factors might include the length the couple was married, the incomes of both parties and the future earning potential of each person.

The law would set limitations on how much and how long alimony can be awarded in various cases, though reports are that judges would be allowed to exceed limitations in cases with extreme circumstances. According to the House Rules Chairman, the bill would not reduce all alimony payments. He said some cases might result in increased alimony awards when compared to similar cases from the past.

The Chairman says that the reason for the bill is to provide predictable and fair limits for all families. While the law must pass through numerous stages before impacting courts, individuals considering or going through a divorce should always be aware of legal ramifications to issues such as alimony or child support.

Source: The Augustine Record, "Lifetime alimony may be eliminated in Florida with reforms" Donna Gehrke-White, Feb. 14, 2015

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