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.

Conclusion

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 Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
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
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

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 or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq 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 of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions