Are Florida’s Spousal Support Laws Antiquated?

Many people consider Florida’s spousal support laws to be among the most antiquated of all the states. Florida’s spousal support laws were very similar to those in Massachusetts—which just underwent a radical overhaul to reflect the economic realities of our present-day society. Although Florida has embraced the no-fault divorce, the awarding of spousal support appears to reflect attitudes and societal norms from an earlier era. It is not unusual for a healthy, employed woman in her 30’s or 40’s to receive permanent spousal support; since women now make up nearly half of the workforce, this may not be a realistic solution to the end of a marriage. Spousal support which allows a reasonable transition period for the lower-earning spouse to achieve independence could be more practical, however there are currently scores of Floridians paying permanent spousal support.

The attorneys at The Law Place understand that an award of permanent alimony essentially forces divorced couples to remain in a constant state of financial entanglement. The spouse paying the alimony may not even be able to retire without returning to court to attempt to have the spousal support lowered or ended. If your order to pay spousal support has created a serious financial burden for you and your family, speaking to an attorney at The Family Law Place could help relieve some of that pressure. If you believe that spousal support should not be a way of life for the recipient (without compelling reason) and that you should not remain indefinitely obligated to your ex, give attorneys at The Law Place a call.

Is Florida Alimony Reform in the Works?

In 2013, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a bill that would have ended permanent alimony in the state of Florida; if the governor had not vetoed the bill it would have become law, and Florida would have joined four other states which recently abolished permanent alimony. Scott noted that spousal support represents an important remedy in “providing support to families as they adjust to changes in life circumstances.” Gov. Scott felt that supporting this particular legislation would interfere with the economic expectations of too many Florida residents when applied retroactively.

The proposed law would have set limits on the amount of alimony as well as the length a person could receive financial support from an ex-spouse, would have made it more difficult to receive alimony from a short-term marriage, and would have limited the length of alimony to half the length of the marriage. Under Florida’s current laws, if you married at 19 and divorced at 40, as the higher wage-earner you could well pay alimony for the remainder of your life, with no obligation for your ex to become self-sufficient. Whether reform for spousal support will happen or not, your particular circumstances may dictate that you are entitled to relief from paying alimony. The attorneys at The Law Place will thoroughly assess your individual circumstances and determine whether you have grounds to ask for an end to spousal support.

Various Types of Spousal Support

Under current Florida laws there are three types of spousal support which may be ordered by the courts:

• A fixed amount of spousal support which is paid to the lower-earning spouse for a specific period of time is known as rehabilitative spousal support.
• A lump sum amount of spousal support may be ordered under certain circumstances, although this type of spousal support has the drawback of negative tax consequences.
• Permanent spousal support may be ordered for an “indefinite” period of time; in order to alter this type of support, the court must be petitioned for a change and the petitioner must have compelling reasons for the change.

For marriages of especially short duration, the court may determine that both spouses have the same ability to support themselves as they had prior to the marriage. For marriages which extend beyond five years there are a variety of factors the courts will consider when making the determination of spousal support.

Factors Considered in the Award of Spousal Support

When considering whether spousal support will be awarded in marriages of longer duration, the judge will consider the earning capacity of each spouse, the duration of the marriage, contributions made by both spouses (including homemaker contributions), disparities in earning capacity between the spouses, the physical and mental health of the spouse petitioning for support and the property and debts received by each spouse. Prior to awarding permanent spousal support, Florida Statute 61.08 requires the courts to determine that no other form of spousal support is fair and reasonable under the circumstances. Further, “permanent” spousal support terminates automatically if the receiving spouse remarries.

Modification of Spousal Support

Contrary to popular belief, spousal support can be modified or ended—though not easily. In fact, the only time spousal support cannot be modified is when both parties agreed to non-modifiable permanent spousal support at the time of the divorce. When the paying spouse retires or suffers a layoff from his or her employment, permanent spousal support may be modified. When the spouse receiving spousal support has a significant increase in income, the paying spouse may petition for a reduction in spousal support.

How to End an Award of Permanent Spousal Support

The attorneys at The Law Place will petition the courts on your behalf to end the award of permanent spousal support based on one of the following situations:

• You have recently retired or lost your job
• Your former spouse is living with a person romantically, however refuses to marry in order to continue to receive spousal support
• You have suffered a substantial change in your financial circumstances which was unanticipated, involuntary and permanent (the change has existed for at least one year)
• Your former spouse is earning significantly more than he or she was at the time of the divorce

There is no guarantee that you will be able to end the permanent spousal support you are currently paying, however our attorneys will work aggressively on your behalf to secure a resolution which is more equitable. Call The Law Place attorneys today for an assessment of your specific circumstances.

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