Opponents of Florida alimony reform recount legislative history

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The debate over permanent alimony in Florida continues, even though months have gone by since the governor vetoed a bill that would have eliminated this type of spousal support. Those who sought reform were obviously upset by the governor’s decision, and some would argue that these supporters were actually making a selfish attempt at eliminating their monthly payments. Opponents of the reform were relieved and made sure to claim that the marketing ploys implemented for the bill’s campaign were disingenuous. According to opponents, the end of permanent alimony would be the end of a level playing field, even though reformers often claimed that eliminating lifetime alimony would actually make things even.

In an opinion piece, an opponent of alimony reform recounted Florida’s recent history with spousal support. After 2006, appellate decisions began restricting awards of alimony that allotted for more than basic needs in marriages that lasted less than 22 years. Lifetime alimony, also known as lifestyle alimony, could be awarded in marriages that lasted longer than 22 years. In 2010, durational alimony was added to the arsenal of family law judges, giving them the ability to award spousal support for a certain amount of time. This is different than bridge-to-gap alimony, which helps a lower-income spouse in the transition from married to single life. Each of these considers the standard of living that spouses kept during the marriage.

There is also rehabilitative alimony, a type of support that helps a spouse acquire new skills to become more attractive to employers, facilitating a return to economic independence. Finally, in 2011, opponents of reform noted that the Florida state legislature began requiring courts to show that no other form of alimony would work just as well before awarding permanent lifetime support. This means that it is now the last resort for courts to award. Modifying the law, in the opinion of the opponents, would be a mistake that would cause financial harm to individuals who opted for spousal support instead of assets during their divorces since no reallocation would take place and the law would be retroactive.

Source: Tampa Tribune, “Alimony measure would kill 30 years of progress” Jerry Reiss, Sep. 06, 2013

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