At present, there are four types of alimony in Florida – bridge the gap, rehabilitative, durational, and permanent. Bridge-the-gap alimony is intended to allow a party to make the transition from being married to being single and it cannot exceed two years. Rehabilitative alimony assists a party in establishing the capacity for self-support by acquiring education or redeveloping prior skills, and there must be a clear plan detailing the cost and duration of the rehabilitation. Durational alimony is meant to provide financial support for a specific period of time, not to exceed the length of the marriage. Permanent alimony is intended to assist a party who is unable to meet his or her needs and necessities of life following a dissolution and is most appropriate for marriages longer than 17 years.
The starting point for any type of alimony is a need by one party and the ability to pay by the other. There is no set guideline for determining amounts of alimony after need and ability to pay have been established.
This may soon change. Currently, the Senate (SB1248) and House (HB943) are each considering their own versions of alimony reform bills. If the bills pass the legislative houses, then the two bills must be “harmonized” to create one bill for the Governor’s consideration. If the Governor signs the bill into law, it would take effect October 1, 2015.
Both versions of the bill propose guidelines amounts for alimony awards and require that the combination of child support and alimony do not exceed 55% of the payor’s income. Most notably, the measure would limit the duration of alimony payments to between 25% to 75% of the length of the marriage, thereby ending permanent alimony. There would be equitable exceptions. There would be presumptions of no alimony for marriages shorter than two years and an entitlement of alimony for marriages longer than two years.
The need and ability to pay analysis would still apply to requests for temporary alimony during the pendency of the dissolution litigation. However, final awards would primarily be determined by the statutory guidelines.
The Senate version of the bill would require a presumption of “approximately equal” time-sharing with minor children by both parents to be in the best interest of the child. This provision was stricken in the House version. It will be interesting to see if this “sleeper provision” makes it way into the combined version of the bill.
Contact us for more information on alimony or any other family law issues.