In 2013, the Florida Legislature passed significant alimony reform laws. To the shock of many, including those for and against alimony reform, Governor Rick Scott vetoed the legislation. A letter from Governor Scott made clear that he believed the alimony reform legislation was anti-family, especially certain provisions that would allow courts to modify prior alimony awards.
With 2014 being an election year, the Governor has also made clear that he does not want to reconsider the controversial bill, which could potentially alienate roughly half of Florida voters. But, we have not seen the last of Florida’s alimony reform movement. Look for proponents of alimony reform to return next year, especially if Governor Scott wins re-election.
The 2013 alimony reform legislation would have changed how the courts classify short-term, moderate-term, and long-term marriages. The current alimony statute defines a marriage of less than 7 years as short-term, a marriage of 7 to 17 years as moderate-term, and a marriage lasting 17 years or more as long-term. There is currently a presumption in favor of awarding permanent alimony after long-term marriages, and there is a presumption against permanent alimony after short-term marriages.
The 2013 alimony reform bill also would have changed the marriage classifications as follows: (a) any marriage lasting less than 11 years would be a short-term marriage, (b) any marriage lasting between 11 and 20 years would be a moderate-term marriage, and (c) only those marriage lasting more than 21 years would be considered long-term. Significantly, the proposed 2013 legislation would have created a presumption against awarding alimony in short-term marriages. And, while the bill maintained a presumption in favor of alimony in long-term marriages, it would have eliminated the concept of permanent periodic alimony.
The 2013 proposed alimony reform also placed significant limits on awards of durational alimony. Specifically, under current law, durational alimony may be awarded for as many years as the parties were married. The 2013 alimony reform bill would have presumptively capped durational alimony at half the duration of the marriage. In other words, a party that was married 14 years could receive alimony for no more than 7 years. Courts only would have had discretion to exceed this cap in cases where the need is justified by exceptional circumstances.
Under existing alimony law, there are no statutory limits on the amount of alimony that may be awarded, except that the alimony award cannot exceed 50% of the payor’s gross income and cannot result in the recipient have significantly more income than the payor. The 2013 alimony reform would have imposed lower caps on the amount of alimony that could be awarded. Alimony would have been capped at the following percentages: (a) 25% of the payor’s gross income for short-term marriages; (b) 35% of the payor’s gross income for moderate-term marriages; and (c) 38% of the payor’s gross income in long-term marriages.
There is no guarantee that the same framework will be included in future attempts at alimony reform. The 2013 alimony reform bill was strongly supported in the legislature. But, the bill was most likely vetoed due to the controversial provisions that allowed courts to modify past alimony awards.
If you have questions about alimony, cohabitation, termination of alimony, or alimony modifications, please contact an experienced Florida family law attorney.