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Alimony Reform: Better Luck Next Time?

Despite overwhelming support by both parties in the state legislature, the movement to eliminate the awarding of permanent alimony in Florida met an abrupt end in May when Gov. Rick Scott vetoed Senate Bill 718. The governor praised some aspects of the bill but said he could not approve it because it was written to apply retroactively, which could have an unfair impact on those whose divorces have already settled.

Some suspect the veto was politically motivated — that the governor feared alienating women voters, who are more often the recipients of permanent alimony paid by ex-husbands. But the fight may not be over. The reform measure may reappear in upcoming legislative sessions.

Florida is one of the few states that still allow the courts to award permanent alimony in divorce cases, along with more limited spousal support arrangements, such as short-term support to assist a lower-earning spouse in transitioning from married to single life. The new law would have favored short-term support and permitted long-duration arrangements only as an exception. Under the law:

  • Alimony would be discouraged in cases where the marriage lasted less than 11 years and would be limited to 25 percent the gross income of the paying spouse.
  • In marriages lasting 11 to 20 years, alimony would be at the discretion of the court but would not be more than 35 percent of the gross income of the paying spouse.
  • Marriages lasting more than 20 years would give rise to an assumption in favor of alimony but the amount could not be more than 38 percent of the gross income of the paying spouse and the duration would be limited to a time frame half as long as the marriage.

Reform activists say they will be back. In the meantime, if you are thinking about a divorce, contact a Tampa divorce attorney to find out what you can expect under current divorce law.

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