In 2013, the Florida legislature attempted to pass alimony reform legislation, but it was vetoed by Governor Rick Scott because of the retroactive effect of the proposed reform on settled expectations.
This year, the legislature is proposing an elaborate fix of the laws on alimony which would establish formulas. The court would make initial findings concerning the gross amount of income of the parties, including actual or imputed income and the years of the marriage. The court would then go on to calculate the presumptive alimony range and the presumptive duration range. The court is to make written findings as to the presumptive alimony amount range and presumptive alimony duration range.
The court then would calculate the alimony amount range by using formulas for the low and high end that involve multiplying the years of marriage by either .015 or .020 by the difference in the gross income of the parties. Twenty years will be used as the low and high end of the presumptive alimony range. If application of the formula results in a negative number, the presumptive amount will be $0. The presumptive duration will use a multiplier of 0.25 by the years of marriage for the low end and 0.75 by the years of marriage for the high end. The rebuttable presumption would be in marriages of two years or less that no alimony would be awarded absent written findings that there is a clear and convincing need for alimony, there is an ability to pay and failure to award alimony would be inequitable.
In marriages of two years or more, there would be a presumption of alimony and the court would be guided by a list of fourteen relevant factors to determine the amount and the duration of the award. The court could deviate from the presumptive amount based on written findings concerning relevant factors that would make an award inappropriate or inequitable.
A new section is created to advance a trial if more than two years have passed since the initial petition was served on the respondent and once made, the court is to give priority to the case on the court’s calendar. There is also a specific section provided concerning imputation of income, nominal awards of $1.00 per year, taxability of deductibility of alimony. There is allowed to temporarily reduce or suspend the alimony payment while an obligor’s petition for modification or termination is pending.
A party would be entitled to pursue an immediate modification if the actual income earned by the other party exceeds by at least 10 percent, the amount imputed to that party at the time of the existing alimony award was determined and that circumstance would constitute a substantial circumstance that would be sufficient to modify the award. The house bill makes the changes retroactive to those initial determinations and modification actions pending on October 1, 2015 or brought on or after October 1, 2015.
Robert J. Hoffman
The Law Place