The laws of the State of Florida regarding Family Law matters received major changes in 2023, as Governor DeSantis signed two separate bills into law. One of the new laws reshaped Alimony in the Sunshine state.
The biggest change to Florida alimony laws is the removal of Permanent Periodic Alimony. This major change means that an individual who is the primary financial earner in the marriage is no longer responsible to pay alimony permanently to their spouse upon dissolution of marriage. Under the new laws the court may consider the adultery of either person and the resulting economic impact when determining alimony.
The new law also clearly places the burden on the person seeking alimony with respect to his or her need for support and the other person’s ability to pay alimony. Another critical change to alimony is that the court can now consider the ability of a person to obtain the necessary skills or education to become self-supporting, or at least to contribute to his or her own self-support.
Another major change is the court can now award a life insurance policy or a bond to secure alimony only with specific finding that a special circumstance exists that creates a need for a life insurance policy to secure the alimony award. This is an important change as the court is now required to make specific findings that there exist special circumstances which create the need for a life insurance policy or bond to secure alimony, a requirement that was not previously required.
More importantly, the cost of the life insurance policy can now be apportioned to either person based on a determination by the court of the ability of either person to pay the life insurance cost. Previously the individual who had to pay alimony would also have to maintain the cost of a life insurance policy if one was ordered to secure alimony.
Under the previous law marriages were broken into three types, short-term which was less than 7 years, moderate-term which was between 7 to 17 years, and long-term which was 17 years or more.
While there are still three types of marriages, the new law dictates that a short-term marriage is less than 10 years, moderate-term is between 10 to 20 years, and a long-term marriage is 20 years or longer.
While durational alimony still exists in the State of Florida the new law restructure how durational alimony can be awarded. First, durational alimony cannot be awarded for a marriage lasting less than 3 years. Second, durational alimony cannot exceed 50% of the length of a short-term marriage. Third, durational alimony cannot exceed 60% of the length of a moderate term marriage. Finally, durational alimony cannot exceed 75% of the length of a long-term marriage.
One important exception does exist for exceptional circumstances, which allows a court to extend durational alimony. However, the burden of proof for exceptional circumstances requires clear and convincing evidence, which is one of the highest standards for an individual to be required to prove.
The two other major changes are to termination or reduction of alimony with respect to retirement, and supportive relationship. Under the new law the court must reduce or terminate an award of alimony upon findings that a supportive relationship exists or has existed between the individual receiving alimony and another individual who is not related by blood. Critically, the new law allows the court to look back one year before the filing of the petition to see if a supportive relationship existed.
The new law also sets forth a number of new and modified factors for the court to consider regarding a supportive relationship. With respect to retirement, an individual may now retire voluntarily and the court must consider a new list of factors to determine if alimony should be reduced or terminated due to the voluntary retirement of the individual. It is important to note that there is a notice requirement for an individual who is anticipating retirement, and the court shall consider the same set of new factors that apply to a voluntary retirement.
It is important to know your rights and understand the risks you face when you are considering a dissolution of marriage.