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New Florida alimony law also contains child custody component

On April 8, the Florida State Senate approved a bill aimed at modernizing the state's alimony laws. Also contained within the statute is an important provision that may affect your child custody in the future.

Alimony, also referred to as spousal support, is a form of support one spouse pays to the other, usually after the divorce is final. This amount is usually determined by a formula based on the couple's income. The spouse ordered to pay the alimony is known as the obligor. The new law, which goes into effect Oct. 1 of this year, puts a cap on the amount of money that an obligor can be required to pay to their ex-spouse. After Oct. 1, a court cannot order alimony payments in excess of 55 percent of the obligor's total income.

The statute also introduces a new formula aimed at limiting the length of time that a court can require an obligor to make alimony payments. Under the new formula, the statute now requires judges to consider the length of the marriage when making their alimony determinations. Put simply, alimony payments can now last for a minimum of 25 percent of the length of a marriage. Additionally, a court will now have an upper limit in which to require alimony payments of up to 75 percent of the time the couple was married.

Another interesting component within the statute is the presumption of a 50-50 split between both parties regarding child custody, which is also sometimes referred to as timesharing. Under the new provisions, the court's default position would be to award equal time to both parents unless facts are established that indicates that arrangement may not be in the child's best interests.

If you are currently considering divorce, then this new law may have great significance for the timing of your case. Lawmakers made it clear that the bill is not retroactive, meaning existing alimony orders will not be affected. However, the new law will govern all new divorces filed after Oct. 1, as well as those already pending or in progress at that time. Your Florida family law attorney can assist you with preparing your divorce in consideration of that timeline.

Source: First Coast News, "Proposed law creates 50/50 child sharing arrangement," Garin Flowers, WTLV, April. 08, 2015

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