Florida Alimony Reform 2023
By: Jarbath Pena Law Group
Alimony has been around for a long time, both in Florida and nationwide. Over the years, the alimony landscape has changed throughout the country. But in Florida, the most recent change, Florida Alimony Reform 2023, happened on June 30, 2023, when Governor DeSantis signed the Alimony Reform Bill into law. This new law applies to all initial petitions for divorce within the state that are pending or filed on or after July 1, 2023. It can also apply to some alimony modification requests.
This new law, as codified in Florida Statutes § 61.08, will significantly impact alimony awards from now on. One of the biggest changes in the law is the elimination of permanent alimony as an option for families. This leaves four temporary alimony options for judges to consider. Today, the family law attorneys of Jarbath Peña Law Group will discuss this and other changes to alimony resulting from the signing of this bill into law.
Eliminates Permanent Alimony
One of the most significant changes is the elimination of permanent alimony. This means that a judge can no longer provide one spouse with permanent financial support, regardless of the circumstances presented.
Four Types of Alimony Currently Allowed
The elimination of permanent alimony means that four types of alimony remain available.
Bridge the Gap Alimony
A judge can award temporary alimony if one spouse shows a need for support after the couple splits, but before the divorce is finalized. These awards typically only last until the judge finalizes the divorce, and it may also be referred to as Alimony pendente lite. “Pendente Lite” means "pending litigation" in Latin. Sometimes divorce litigation can last a few months, but sometimes it can last a few years. The judge can also give credit against any future alimony it may award, if it did order temporary alimony.
Bridge the Gap Alimony
Bridge the Gap Alimony: A judge can award this type of alimony to help the spouse with fewer resources adjust to their new normal after a divorce. It is meant to help a party transition from being married to being single. This type of award is intended to assist with specific, short-term needs. For example, coming up with first, last and the security deposit for a new place. In addition, it can be used to cover the cost of hiring movers, and/or to help furnish a new place. Since it is meant for short-term specific needs, the duration of such an award cannot exceed two years. It cannot be modified in amount or length. However it can be terminated with the death of either party or the re-marriage of the receiving party.
Rehabilitative Alimony: The purpose of this type of alimony award is to assist the disadvantaged spouse in obtaining the skills necessary to support themselves post-divorce. There must be a specific and defined rehabilitative plan before this alimony can be awarded. According to the statute, rehabilitative alimony can be used towards the redevelopment of previous skills or credentials, or the acquisition of education, training, or work experience necessary to develop appropriate employment skills or credentials. This award can last up to five years under the new law and can be terminated or modified for several reasons, including non-compliance with the rehabilitative plan, substantial change in circumstances, or the existence of a supportive relationship, as defined in Florida Statutes § 61.14. It can also be terminated with the death of either party or the re-marriage of the receiving party.
Before we talk about durational alimony, it is important to talk about the lengths of marriage. This may seem out of place, but you will understand why shortly.
Length of Marriage Re-Defined
The new law codifies categories for the length of a marriage. A short-term marriage is one that lasts less than 10 years, a moderate-term marriage lasts between 10 and 20 years, and a long-term marriage is one that lasts over 20 years. Prior to the change in law, a short-term marriage was less than 7 years, a moderate-term marriage was between 7 years and 17 years, and a long-term marriage was more than 17 years. Additionally, the new law now specifies that no award for durational alimony shall be awarded for marriages that are less than 3 years. The length of marriage is from the date of the marriage to the date of filing for dissolution of marriage.
Now, let’s jump back into the fourth, and final type of alimony.
Durational Alimony: A judge can award durational alimony for a specified period of time, depending on the length of the marriage. However, a judge can extend this type of award for what they define as “exceptional circumstances,” which is more clearly defined in the Alimony Reform Act.
One of the most extensive changes in the Alimony Reform Act is to this particular section, durational alimony. Before the amendment, the statute simply stated that the length of alimony could not exceed the length of the marriage. After July 1, 2023, there are further limits to the length of durational alimony.
For short term marriages, alimony cannot exceed 50% of the length of the marriage.
For moderate-term marriages, alimony cannot exceed 60% of the length of the marriage.
Finally, for long-term marriages, alimony cannot exceed 75% of the length of the marriage.
Prior to the passage of the Alimony Reform Act, the Court could award permanent alimony for long-term marriages. However, if you recall from above, permanent alimony was eliminated.
That is not the only change to durational alimony. They have now given more direction on the amount of alimony. Per the new law, the amount of the award of duration alimony:
Shall not exceed the amount determined to be the disadvantaged spouse’s reasonable need, OR
Shall not exceed 35% of the difference between the parties’ NET INCOME;
Whichever amount is LESS.
This appears to be another restriction on alimony, which tends to reduce the amount of alimony a payor would have to pay, while making the amount to be paid more uniform, and left less to chance and discretion of the Judges. The judges still have a lot of discretion, but ultimately, a judge cannot grant alimony that leaves the payee with significantly higher income than the payor.
The new law allows a judge to consider the adultery of either party when it is determining whether an award of alimony is warranted. This applies even though Florida remains a no-fault divorce state. While it is not important to demonstrate fault when determining whether or not a divorce will be granted, fault may be indirectly used to help determine alimony, because the court can look at adultery. Prior to the change in the law, the Courts could still consider adultery and the circumstances surrounding it, however, with the new change in law, the Courts are specifically directed to look at the economic impact that resulted from the adultery when determining the amount of alimony, if any.
Other Factors the Judge May Consider
What does the judge consider when deciding alimony awards?
These are the factors that a judge should consider when deciding on alimony awards. The first and most important consideration is whether or not the party seeking alimony has an actual need for the funds and whether or not the payor has the ability to pay. After the judge makes this determination, they shall also consider the following factors:
How long did the marriage last? Was it of short, moderate, or long duration?
What are the emotional, physical, and mental conditions of the parties?
How old are the parties?
What financial resources do both parties have, including income generated from marital and non-marital assets?
What are the educational levels and earning capacity of each party? Do any parties need to go back to school or get certified to help them become self-supporting?
What standard of living did the parties become accustomed to during the marriage? What are the anticipated needs for each party after the divorce?
What unpaid contributions did each party make to the marriage, such as homemaking, childcare, and education? Did one party help to build the career of the other party?
What are the future parental responsibilities of each party? Who is more responsible for the welfare of shared children? Do any of those shared children have any special needs?
The court may also consider any other factor that it deems relevant in making a fair alimony determination. For example,
Is one of the parties in a supportive relationship with a non-relative, which may exclude them from receiving alimony?
Is one of the parties reasonably retired?
The reformed law seeks to help payors by allowing them to petition to modify alimony if they reach retirement age and actively seek to retire from work. This cannot be a speculative wish to retire. Instead, the payor must have demonstrated their sincere desire to retire by actually taking steps towards that goal. Furthermore, the payor must demonstrate that retiring will reduce their ability to pay alimony. Here are several factors a court may consider when evaluating a modification request:
The typical retirement age in the payor’s profession;
The health and age of the payor;
The type of work the payor does;
The motivation for retiring and the likelihood that the payor will return to work;
The needs of the payee (alimony recipient) and their ability to support themselves without alimony payments;
The impact of a reduction or elimination of alimony on the payee;
The income that the parties earned during and after the marriage;
The parties’ assets and whether or not either party wasted assets during the pendency of the divorce;
The retirement benefits each party will receive; and
Whether or not the payor complied with their alimony obligations up until this point.
If a payor intends to retire, they can file for a modification of alimony up to six months before they plan on retiring.
The new law also allows payors to request a modification if they can prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the payee is or has been in a “supportive relationship.” The last states that the supportive relationship needs to have existed in the last 365 days prior to the filing of the petition for modification, divorce, or alimony/support. If they are able to prove a supportive relationship existed in that time, the burden shifts, and that party must convince the Court why their alimony award should not be denied, reduced, or terminated.
While some people automatically think that this is a romantic partner, the statute states that the relationship does not have to be “conjugal” for it to be deemed a supportive relationship. Here are several factors a court may consider when evaluating a supportive relationship:
If the couple have held themselves out to be a married couple, such as using a common mailing address, referring to each other as husband or wife, or using the same last name.
How long have they resided together?
Did they pool their assets or income? Do they have a joint bank account? Could you say they are financially dependent on each other?
Did they pay the other person’s bills?
Did they perform valuable services for the other person’s business?
Did they work together to enhance the value of any asset?
Did they jointly contribute to the purchase of real or personal property? I.e., a house or a car?
Is there a written or unwritten understanding regarding support?
Are they supporting the children or family members of the party?
Did the payor of alimony actually pay the alimony, or do they owe back-alimony?
Let Us Help
The attorneys at The Jarbath Peña Law Group are compassionate but aggressive advocates. We understand that your ability to support yourself may depend on whether or not a judge grants, reduces, or modifies your alimony award or obligation. We keep up with the changing legal landscape in Florida, and we can look at your situation and advise you on the most advantageous road forward.
Your family matters. So let us protect your rights.
Call today at 305-615-1005 or through our online contact form to set up your initial consultation.