United States: Proposed Laws Could Have A Drastic Impact On Alimony Recipients In Florida

A series of proposed changes to the alimony laws is working its way through the Florida Legislature, and the effect on former spouses who receive alimony may be significant. During the fall of 2011, three state legislators sponsored related alimony bills: House Bill 549 ("HB 549"), House Bill 565 ("HB 565"), and Senate Bill 748 ("SB 748"). If passed, the proposed bills could result in a financial boon for alimony payors and a financial drag on alimony recipients. While the bills have not become law yet and are, of course, subject to further change or being voted down, a summary of the most notable provisions of the current versions of each bill is set forth as follows:

HB 549

House Bill 549, sponsored by Representative Ritch Workman (R – Melbourne), provides that upon reaching a reasonable retirement age, the alimony payor may file a petition with the court seeking a downward modification or a termination of the alimony obligation based on such retirement. The Bill presumes that a normal retirement age is 67, though the alimony payor may provide evidence to the court that an earlier retirement age is reasonable, taking into account factors such as the alimony payor's age, health, motivation for retirement, type of work, and normal retirement age for that type of work. The effect, of course, is that if an alimony recipient is counting on a fixed income each month in the form of alimony from the alimony payor, that alimony recipient could find that their monthly income stream from alimony payments could significantly decrease or dry up altogether, leaving the recipient without a comparable substitute for their monthly support.

Additionally, HB 549 states that if the alimony payor remarries or resides with another person, the income or assets of the alimony payor's spouse or person with whom the alimony payor resides may not be considered in a modification regarding the alimony payor. Under current law, alimony is determined based on one spouse's ability to pay alimony and the other spouse's need for alimony. If an alimony payor remarried or resided with a new individual in a supportive relationship, and that new spouse or person had significant assets, then the alimony payor would conceivably have an even greater ability to pay alimony to his or her former spouse, and the former spouse receiving such alimony could petition the court to increase the alimony payments. The obvious effect of HB 549 is that the court may not consider the income or assets of the alimony payor's new spouse or significant other, even if that person had a substantial amount of income or assets.

Conversely, under current law if the alimony recipient enters into a supportive relationship, the alimony payor can file a petition with the court to decrease the alimony amount based on the new supportive relationship. HB 549 gives more teeth to this procedure, providing that if the court finds that a downward modification is warranted, the modification can be applied retroactively to the date the petition was filed with the court. Even more, upon a modification, a court may not thereafter reserve its jurisdiction to later reinstate the original alimony amount in the event the supportive relationship ends. This means that if an alimony recipient enters into a supportive relationship with a new individual after the divorce, the alimony recipient's former spouse may be entitled to decrease or terminate the monthly alimony amount. If the alimony recipient and his or her new significant other end their supportive relationship, the alimony recipient may not thereafter request the court to reinstate the prior monthly alimony amount that the alimony recipient was receiving prior to the commencement of the supportive relationship.

In its current form, HB 549 would also substantially change the award of durational alimony. Under current law, a court has the option of awarding "durational" alimony, the purpose of which is to provide a spouse with economic assistance for a set period of time following a "short-term" marriage (7 years or less) or "moderate term" marriage (greater than 7 years but less than 17 years). Under HB 549, a court would be prohibited from awarding durational alimony to a spouse following a "short-term" marriage. In a moderate term marriage or "long-term" marriage (greater than 17 years), a court can only award durational alimony if it specifically finds in writing that an award of other forms of alimony, such as rehabilitative alimony or bridge-the-gap alimony (which have particularly short durations) is inappropriate. Finally, if a court orders an award of durational alimony for a length of time greater than half the time the parties were married, the court must make written findings justifying the length of the award. As a result of the proposed durational alimony provisions contained in HB 549, judges will be significantly limited as to when and how to make such awards.

As described above, the current law states that a "long-term" marriage is a marriage having a duration of 17 years or greater. Under HB 549, however, the term would be defined to include only those marriages having a duration of 20 years or greater. Further, if a court wishes to order long-term alimony to a spouse, the court must first make a finding that no other forms of alimony (i.e., durational, rehabilitative, or bridge-the-gap) will provide for the spouse's needs and necessities of life and that no other form of alimony is fair and reasonable under the circumstances. Such a procedure would serve to make judges "think twice" before ordering long-term alimony, the effect of which would presumably be to discourage judges from awarding such long-term alimony and instead award alimony for a shorter duration.

Finally, HB 549 includes a provision stating that if a court orders alimony payable concurrently with the payment of child support, the alimony award may not be modified solely because of a later modification or termination of child support payments. For example, under current law if the alimony payor is also making child support payments for the parties' minor child, the monthly child support obligation may be terminated upon the minor child reaching the age of 18. The alimony recipient could thereafter file a petition with the court asking for the alimony award to be increased, arguing that the alimony payor has a greater ability to pay alimony now that no child support obligation exists. Under HB 549, no such procedure would be available to the alimony recipient based solely on the modification or termination of the alimony payor's monthly child support obligation.

As of this writing, HB 549 has passed the Florida House of Representatives and is currently pending a vote in the Florida Senate.

HB 565

House Bill 565, sponsored by Representative Elizabeth W. Porter (R – Lake City), is substantially shorter than HB 549, though its provisions closely mirror those contained in HB 549. Like HB 549, HB 565 provides that if an alimony payor files a petition for modification or termination of alimony and the court grants the petition, the modification or termination would be required to be retroactive to the date the petition was filed. HB 565 also includes the same provisions regarding durational alimony as HB 549, which provisions are discussed in more detail above.

Additionally, HB 565 provides that, except in cases where the parties were in a "long-term" marriage, the court must impute income to the alimony recipient using certain calculation guidelines already contained in the Florida Statutes (HB 549 has a similar provision). The result of such provision means that if an alimony recipient is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, the court may still determine the alimony award based on a higher income level that is imputed on the alimony recipient.

Currently, HB 565 has passed the Florida House of Representatives and is currently pending a vote in the Florida Senate.

SB 748

Senate Bill 748, sponsored by Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R – Miami), is also shorter than HB 549 but contains provisions that mirror those in HB 549. Among other things, SB 748 includes the same language regarding the modification or termination of an alimony award upon the alimony payor reaching retirement. And, like HB 549, the Bill prohibits a court that terminates an alimony award based on the alimony recipient's commencement of a supportive relationship with a new significant other from reserving its jurisdiction to thereafter reinstate the alimony award after the supportive relationship ends.

Additionally, under current law, if a court orders a party to pay alimony, it can also order that party to provide security (usually in the form of a life insurance policy or a bond) to secure the alimony award. Under SB 748, however, such an order may only be entered by the court upon a showing of special circumstances, with the court being obligated to make specific findings based on the evidence presented at trial regarding the availability, cost, and financial impact on the alimony payor. Further, SB 748 provides that any security ordered by the court may be modified if the underlying alimony award is modified (HB 549 has similar language; HB 565 does not). The result of such language is that it will be more difficult for the alimony recipient to obtain from the court adequate security for the alimony award, especially in the event the alimony payor suffers an untimely death (at which point the alimony award ceases pursuant to existing Florida law).

Today, SB 748 is pending in the Florida Senate Rules Committee.


The bills discussed in this article have yet to become law. However, each of the bills is proceeding through the Legislature at a steady pace, and if any or all of the bills are passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, they will become law effective July 1, 2012.

Given the pro-alimony payor slant of each of the bills, it is never too early to start planning ahead if you have previously been through a divorce and are currently receiving alimony payments from your former spouse, or anticipate getting divorced in the near future and expect to receive an award of alimony.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.