Florida Overhauls Permanent Alimony
Ron DeSantis signed a bill at the end of June that drastically changed the way alimony is awarded in Florida. The new law's most notable feature is its elimination of permanent alimony (which is exactly what it sounds like) in favor of a more complex system.
In place of the one-size-fits-all permanent alimony system, Florida will now award divorced spouses one of four types of alimony based on a set of calculations performed by the courts. The new alimony formulas require the courts to consider nine different factors before determining which of the new types of alimony should be awarded and to whom.
Whereas permanent alimony arrangements require an ex-spouse to make payments indefinitely, its four new replacements come with both time limits and stringent conditions. The four types of alimony arrangements are:
- Temporary: Temporary alimony can be temporarily awarded during court proceedings and typically ends once the divorce is finalized and the newly awarded alimony payments begin.
- Bridge-the-Gap: This arrangement involves regular alimony payments intended to help the ex-spouse meet their needs as they transition from married life to financial and personal independence. The payments are not to exceed two years.
- Rehabilitative: Rehabilitative alimony is intended to provide financial support for an ex-spouse while they learn or regain skills or credentials or gain the experience they need to get a job. These arrangements usually involve a specific plan and timeline.
- Durational: This arrangement involves payments made for a set period of time based on the duration of the marriage.
Yays and Nays
The battle over the new law lasted the better part of a decade and involved four different iterations of the legislation (Florida seems to love that number). Both sides of the debate had strong, reasonable arguments as to why the rules should or shouldn't be changed.
The detractors of the bill were perhaps best exemplified by the First Wives Advocacy Group, an organization composed of mostly older women who receive permanent alimony. Their argument was as clear as their motivation: they rely on the alimony they receive, so getting rid of permanent alimony would effectively destroy their financial situations and upend their lives.
The proponents of the bill include the Florida Family Fairness group, an organization that had for a while been pushing for the elimination of permanent alimony in the state. Perhaps unsurprisingly, their membership includes a number of older men who pay permanent alimony. Their argument and motivations are similarly clear: making ex-spouses pay permanent alimony effectively forces them to keep working for years after they would have otherwise retired.
Both sides of the debate seem to be arguing out of a good deal of self-interest, so it's difficult to root for either one. On the one hand, reneging on an alimony arrangement when the recipient of the payments is not able to support themself isn't exactly noble. On the other hand, it isn't the 1950s anymore; revoking permanent alimony for the First Wives means they'll have to get jobs, but probably won't put them out on the street. And granted, making women in their 60s enter the workforce out of the blue isn't cool, but neither is making men in their 60s delay or forego retirement.
But there is one piece of information that tips the scales in favor of the Florida Family Fairness folks. Up until the beginning of July, Florida was one of only seven states that allowed permanent alimony. The few others are Connecticut, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia. Most of the rest of the country has moved on from permanent alimony to alternative arrangements. That doesn't necessarily mean it's the right move, but it could mean that it's a sign of progressive legislation shifting to fit a more egalitarian society than before. In any case, the fact that it seems to be working out for most of the country might bring hope for Floridians.
- Are You Entitled to Alimony (Spousal Support)? (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
- Pick Your Side: Disney v. DeSantis (FindLaw's Legally Weird blog)
- Florida Divorce Laws (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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