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Florida Family Law - Online Article

Changes to Florida Family Law - Alimony

By David Roberts | Family Law Attorney
Posted on July 4, 2011

F.S. 61.08 Amendments – Effective July 1, 2010

The Florida Legislature’s extensive revision of Chapter 61 has included important changes to Florida’s divorce and family law statutes, particularly in the area of alimony. Florida’s alimony statute is found at § 61.08, F.S. Where Florida courts have previously recognized three categories of alimony: Bridge-the-Gap, Rehabilitative, and Permanent; the Florida legislature has now codified and clarified these different types of alimony, both statutorily recognizing “Bridge-the-Gap” alimony and adding a fourth category of “Durational” Alimony. The recent amendments to the statute, set forth in House Bill 907, are applicable to initial alimony awards in all cases pending on or filed after July 1, 2010. If you are currently involved in a case where alimony is at issue, these amendments will apply to you. It is important to contact an attorney to determine how these new statutory changes may impact your case. To learn how you may be impacted by the recent changes to Florida’s alimony statute, contact us at The Roberts Family Law Firm, (407) 426-6999, to discuss your legal rights.

The basis for an award of alimony in Florida has long been one party’s need for financial support and the other party’s ability to pay. The determination of whether alimony is appropriate in a divorce case begins with a factual evaluation of the financial status of the parties, focusing on need and ability to pay. Prior to the recent statutory changes, the court had the authority to consider certain factors in determining whether alimony or maintenance was appropriate. These factors included:

  • The standard of living established during the marriage;
  • The duration of the marriage;
  • The age, physical and emotional condition of the parties;
  • The financial resources of each party, including nonmarital and marital assets and liabilities distributed to each in the divorce;
  • The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties, and when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment;
  • The contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party;
  • Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.

Pursuant to the new statutory amendments, a judge in Florida may now consider three additional factors in his or her determination, namely:

  • The responsibilities each party will have with regard to any minor children they have in common.
  • The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a nontaxable, nondeductible payment.
  • All sources of income available to either party, including income available to either party through investments of any asset held by that party.

If the court determines that an award of alimony is appropriate, it must then determine what type of alimony is to be awarded. Florida law has always recognized that the length or duration of a marriage is directly relevant to an award of alimony, especially permanent alimony; categorizing marriages as short-term, moderate, and long-term. The duration of a marriage in Florida is measured from the date of the marriage to the date of the filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Under the new law, the durational time frames are now set forth as follows:

  • Short-term: less than seven years of marriage;
  • Moderate: between seven and 17 years;
  • Long-term: more than 17 years of marriage.

§ 61.08 now states that no alimony is appropriate in a short-term marriage in the absence of special circumstances (in other words, a rebuttable presumption exists against an award of alimony in marriages of less than seven years). An award of alimony in a long-term marriage is presumed to be appropriate by law. Specifically, however, the new amendment has lengthened the amount of time parties must be married before a party will have a strong claim for permanent alimony.

Types of Alimony - Florida Law

Florida courts have previously recognized three categories of alimony:

  • Bridge-the-Gap
  • Rehabilitative
  • Permanent

In the recent amendments, the legislature has now codified and clarified these different types of alimony, both recognizing “Bridge-the-Gap” alimony and adding the fourth category of “Durational” Alimony. These categories are now defined in § 61.08 as follows:

Bridge-the-Gap Alimony

Bridge-the-gap alimony provides support to allow a party to transition from being married to being single, and is designed to assist a party with legitimate identifiable short-term needs. This form of alimony cannot exceed two years and cannot be modified in amount or duration once it is awarded. Such an award terminates upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the party receiving alimony.

Rehabilitative Alimony

Rehabilitative alimony may be awarded to assist a party in establishing the capacity for self-support through either redeveloping previous skills or credentials or by acquiring education, training or work experience necessary to develop appropriate employment skills or credentials.

The new law creates the requirement that there be a specific and defined written rehabilitation plan which must be included as a part of any order awarding rehabilitative alimony. Rehabilitative alimony may be modified or terminated in accordance with § 61.14, F.S., based upon a substantial change in circumstances, upon noncompliance with the plan, or upon completion of the plan.

Durational Alimony

Duration Alimony is a short-term alimony award that would be appropriate if permanent periodic alimony is found to not be appropriate. Its purpose is to provide a party with economic assistance for a set period of time following a short or moderate duration marriage. This form of alimony terminates if either party dies or if the recipient remarries and the amount may be modified or terminated based upon a substantial change in circumstances in accordance with § 61.14, F.S. However, the length of an award of Durational Alimony may not be modified except under exceptional circumstances and may not exceed the length of the marriage itself.

Permanent Alimony

Permanent alimony may be awarded to provide for the needs and necessities of life as they were established during the marriage, for the party who lacks the financial ability to meet his or her own needs and necessities of life following a divorce.

Permanent alimony will most often be awarded following a marriage of long duration, although it may be awarded following a marriage of moderate duration if such an award is appropriate under the factors set forth in § 61.08(2). Permanent Alimony may only be awarded in a short-term marriage if there are exceptional circumstances. An award of Permanent Alimony terminates if either party dies or if the recipient remarries. Such an award may be modified or terminated based upon a substantial change in circumstances or upon the existence of a supportive relationship (for example, the contribution of a live-in boyfriend/girlfriend or roommate).

The new changes to the law cannot be used as a basis for modifying any alimony award entered prior to July 1, 2010 or as a basis to change amounts or duration of awards existing before July 1, 2010. The changes to Florida’s alimony law apply to all initial alimony awards entered after July 1, 2010 and the modification of these awards.

It is critical that you contact an attorney to determine whether you may be impacted by recent changes to the family law statutes. We, at The Roberts Family Law Firm in Central Florida, have dedicated our careers to providing our clients with the highest quality of legal representation. Our attorneys are experienced in handling all types of family law matters and will spend time with you to explain how the law may affect particular aspects of your case. When your family’s future is at stake, the advice of an experienced family law and divorce attorney can be invaluable. Call us today to discuss your legal concerns and how you may be impacted by recent changes in the law.

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