Alimony, also known as spousal support, can be one of the most contentious issues in a divorce. For the past two years, the Florida legislature has been trying to reform Florida’s alimony laws. The attempts at reform have been based upon the Court’s current discretionary power to award alimony based upon one party’s need for it, and the other party’s ability to pay. Many argue that the better way to determine alimony issues is through the use of a guidelines formula, just as child support is calculated using a guidelines formula.
The most recent attempt at reforming alimony has failed to pass through the Florida legislature. It appears this recent failure occurred because of the proposed law having a tie-in with a provision regarding parental time-sharing with children. Currently, time sharing arrangements are based upon the best interests of the children, with no presumption as to what an appropriate percentage of time sharing for each parent should be. The current reform attempt would have provided that a 50/50 time sharing be presumed to be best for the children.
There was also an anticipated problem with how the proposed reform would apply to already resolved cases. The proposed reform did not have a retroactive provision allowing it to be used as the sole basis to modify already closed cases. It did, however, open the door for the proposed changes to be used as one factor, but not the sole factor, in modifying cases already closed or resolved. This would likely have resulted in many cases being re-opened.
For now, alimony will continue to be addressed by looking at three main questions: (1) the length of the marriage; (2) whether the requesting party needs alimony; and (3) whether the other party has the ability to pay alimony. All the details and questions that go with these three main issues will be considered, and each case dealt with according to its specific circumstances.
It appears that alimony reform is going to occur in Florida. While the Florida legislature has not yet been able to reach agreement on a single version of a bill, there is still much effort being made to change the existing law.