Florida Lawmakers Move Toward Alimony Reform

Florida lawmakers last week eased toward ending lifetime alimony awards and curtailing sky-high support payments.

The proposed reform also permits a former spouse to petition to end or lower alimony payments upon reaching retirement age, which means some people would finally be able to stop working.

Supporters of reform contend that permanent alimony makes no sense in a world where two-paycheck households and the opportunity to rebuild one’s post-divorce career are more common. Presently, someone who marries at 20 and divorces at 40 may be forever required to support a former spouse even through retirement. And nothing in current law forces former spouses to try to earn their own living. As a result, they may be reluctant to re-wed for fear of being kicked off the gravy train.

Senate Bill 718, sponsored by Lakeland Republican Kelli Stargel, eliminates permanent alimony and places caps on monthly awards based on an ex-spouse’s income and the length of the marriage. For a marriage of 10 years or less, the monthly payout would be limited to no more than 25 percent of the former spouse’s income; marriages up to 20 years, the award would be capped at 35 percent; and for marriages beyond that, up to 38 percent.

The measure also would permit lowering payments when retirement is at hand.

Forcing someone to pay half or more of their income to an unemployed former partner is simply too much. So is forcing someone to pay alimony for a period longer than the marriage lasted.

However, where extenuating circumstances exist, especially for older exes who’ve never worked outside the home, the bill appropriately allows a judge to use some discretion.

Last week, the Senate passed Stargel’s bill, 29-11. The same or similar legislation may soon come up for a vote in the House.

 

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