Cohabitation or a supportive relationship can affect alimony

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In Florida, alimony is awarded solely on the judge’s discretion; however, there are many factors that play into a judge’s decision. There are four different kinds of alimony that Florida judges may award, according to the state’s statute 61.08. Those include bridge-the-gap, durational, rehabilitative and permanent.

If you’re paying alimony, you may feel frustrated if your ex-spouse is living with someone else. This is especially true if your ex tells you that he or she won’t be getting remarried because the alimony would be discontinued. However, did you know that the law in Florida provides for a termination or lowering of alimony payments if the person receiving them is in a supportive relationship?

There are many things that factor into this, such as whether your ex is living with another as a perceived married couple. This might include sharing the same address, referring to one another as “my husband” or “my wife,” or using the same last name. The length of time that your ex has been living with his or her new partner is also important.

It’s up to the person paying alimony to prove to the court “by greater weight of the evidence that a supportive relationship exists.” An appellate court in Florida has held that if a supportive relationship is established, alimony payments must be eliminated or reduced.

While you may not relish the idea of trying to prove that your ex is in a supportive relationship, the idea of paying less in alimony will likely make the prospect of the task at hand a bit easier. It might be wise to speak with an attorney about your current situation in order to ensure that you have covered all your bases before heading into court.

Source: Naples News, “It’s The Law: Supportive relationship can terminate alimony” William Morris, Jan. 28, 2014

Movie highlights need for Florida alimony reform

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It is no secret to Orlando residents that the current state alimony laws can have a seriously negative impact on those who are ordered to pay. When alimony reform was being bandied about last year, several people shared their stories of financial hardship as a result of large alimony payments. However, although the Florida legislature passed reforms, Governor Rick Scott vetoed the bill.

However, those who are pro-reform have not given up the fight. One of the latest methods being used to educate the public on the issues of alimony reform is the documentary, “Divorce Corp.” It highlights the problems with the current policies and explains why reform is necessary.

However, although the process might need an overhaul, the principle of alimony is still valid. Payments to spouses who gave up jobs or careers in order to take care of their families deserve to be compensated for the time they put into their families. Alimony ensures that a spouse will not live in poverty after a divorce. But the problem with the current laws is that the spouse who is paying alimony could find themselves in financial straits.

New attempts at legislation will avoid the pitfalls of the 2013 proposed legislation. For example, new legislation will not seek to eliminate permanent alimony, but will focus on smaller fixes such as alerting both spouses that their standard of living will decrease after a divorce. Pro-reformists will also seek “retirement” of alimony payments when the payee retires.

No one argues that alimony is a needed part of the divorce process. However, opponents of the current system want the process to be less financially prohibitive for the payee. Anyone who feels they are paying unfairly can seek the advice of an experienced legal professional who can evaluate their situation and offer solutions that can make paying alimony less of a financial burden.

Source: Bradenton.com, “Florida alimony reform supporters rally around documentary film” Kathleen McGrory, Jan. 22, 2014

Divorce more prevalent in some places than others

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Although the divorce rate remains relatively high all over the country, it would seem some areas of the country are more prone to divorce than others. For couples who are in the process or working out agreements regarding property division, assets valuation and determining child support or alimony, it’s an interesting question to ponder if the location of a marriage was a contributing factor to its eventual end. Orlando readers will be interested to know that although the state didn’t rank high on the list, one particular city in Florida did.

According to a study completed by the American Community Survey and the Daily Beast, Panama City, Florida, has the most divorces in the United States. In second place is Sierra Vista. As for states, Alaska, Arkansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Alabama and Arizona have the highest divorce rates in the country. For example, the state of Arizona’s data shows that roughly 11 to 13 people out of 1,000 end up filing for divorce.

No matter what state you live in, getting divorced can be a complicated matter, especially if there are substantial amounts of assets to consider. The more material possessions a couple has between them, the more complicated the divorce can be. This is especially true if the couple cannot agree on how to split the assets. When you factor in children, child support and alimony, the process becomes even more complicated and runs the risk of becoming acrimonious as well.

This is why it is important that anyone who is considering getting divorced seek the advice of experienced legal counsel as soon as possible. A legal professional can help a person who is ending their marriage protect their assets.

Source: ABC 15, “Divorce rates high in Arizona, according to study” Weslie Swift, Nov. 05, 2013

Why alimony reform spells disaster for women

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A blog post from two weeks ago explained why Governor Scott’s veto of alimony reform was a good thing. However, reformists are still attempting to have permanent alimony made a thing of the past. But there are others who disagree with the reformists and believe that alimony reform will have a detrimental effect on families overall.

Most couples who decide that the mother should stay home with the kids do so for several reasons, one of which is so the husband can concentrate on his career. If a woman knows that alimony is no longer an option, she is going to opt to work so she can protect herself in the event of a divorce. This means the husband loses his fulltime at home support. Also, if both work, expenses to take care of the children such as daycare, an au pair or a nanny would have to be included in the household expenses. A wife who stays at home eliminates the need for those things, but that does not mean she does not deserve to be compensated for the work she did and the money she saved the family.

One of the main reasons reformists are calling for the changes is because many men state they are stuck paying alimony payments they can no longer afford. Their payments might have been based on a much higher income than they might have now. This is plausible considering the economic climate. However, in the state of Florida, alimony agreements can be modified provided the former husband can prove that paying the current court-ordered amount is financially impossible. The only time a husband will be put in jail for nonpayment is when he refuses to pay but has the means to do so.

Another reason reform is detrimental is because it allows the husband to walk away from the marriage with no obligation to provide financial support for his former wife, a person who voluntarily stopped working or put a career on hold to take care of the family. Twenty years later, once the kids are grown, you could have a woman who is living in virtual poverty because she has no tangible skills to use in the workplace. Any woman who is facing such a situation because a former spouse won’t pay would be wise to speak to a legal professional experienced in divorce and alimony issues.

Source: Huffington Post, “Alimony Reform Laws Focus on the Exception to the Rule and to the Detriment of the American Family” Deborah S. Chames, Oct. 09, 2013

Permanent alimony brings balance

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Some want to believe that we have progressed enough in our society to have outgrown the need for certain things. One of those concepts that some would like to see fall by the wayside isalimony. Although the argument can be made that with women in the workforce, the need to pay them monthly for the rest of their lives is no longer necessary, there are still flaws in the argument. Not to mention, it completely glosses over why alimony is actually paid in the first place.

Recently, Florida governor Rick Scott vetoed a bill that would have eliminated permanent alimony for spouses. Some organizations, such as Florida Alimony Reform (FAR) were disappointed by this action. Others, however, breathed a sigh of relief. Eliminating permanent alimony would have risked the equitable division of assets for a lot of divorcing couples, equity the injured spouse would never be able to recoup, no matter how long they were in the workforce.

Here’s why: For couples who are only married for a few years, rehabilitative alimony kicks in to give the spouse who did not work a chance to get back on his or her feet. It’s not permanent alimony and ends after a set period of time. Permanent alimony was never intended for short-term marriages. For couples who were married for 20, 25, or more years, this is where permanent alimony truly comes into play. A spouse who stayed at home while the other worked invested time and resources into the marriage. They raised the kids, supported the spouse in his or her career endeavors and ran the household. If a couple in that situation divorces, the spouse who did not work would never recoup the investment. Permanent alimony serves to attempt to balance the equitable distribution of assets in the marriage. It accounts for the intangibles.

The ending of a marriage is a sad period for everyone involved, however it should not be punitive for either party. Anyone who is facing a divorce and has questions about alimony would be wise to speak with a legal professional about their options. These professionals could determine if alimony – rehabilitative or permanent — is an option that should be explored.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, “My Word: Permanent alimony rights a wrong” Jerry Reiss, Oct. 01, 2013

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

Cone you dig it? Man must pay added alimony for wife’s ice cream

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When a couple goes through the divorce process, the matter of alimony can often be the most contentious issue. Many divorced couples in Orlando have had to deal with spousal support negotiations, which are complicated discussions that require diligent work from both parties and their attorneys.

If there is no prenuptial agreement involved, the two spouses need to come to an agreement on how much the monthly spousal support payments will be (a prenup will usually outline alimony terms); and there must be justification for the amount being quoted, usually substantiated by the length of the marriage and the standard of living that was established as a result. If the spouses cannot come to terms, then a judge will have the ultimate say.

Alimony is undoubtedly a serious issue in divorce. But a recent spousal support story caught our eye — and our sweet tooth — for a quirky and entertaining clause in a divorce settlement agreed to by an Indian couple.

The divorced husband and wife took their divorce claims to a court in Mumbai, India, where a judge was presiding over the alimony discussions. The man was separating from his wife, in part, because of her love for ice cream. He claimed she drained his savings buying ice cream.

So when it came time to make a ruling on the divorcing couple’s alimony disagreement, the judge decided on a monthly payment of roughly $1,300. Just one thing: an extra $2.50 per month had to be paid by the man to his ex-wife so that she could get some ice cream.

Source: The Inquisitr, “Man Must Pay For Ex-Wife’s Ice Cream In Best Divorce Settlement Ever,” Dusten Carlson, Aug. 6, 2013

The many faces of alimony in the state of Florida

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Alimony plays a big role in divorce; it is usually awarded, though there are cases where it doesn’t happen (a prenuptial agreement can forbid it, for example). Known today as spousal support, the award of alimony is given to the spouse who is in a weaker financial state. In the past, this almost always meant that the woman in a divorce would receive alimony. Since the marriages of generations past had defined roles for each spouse — the man worked, the woman took care of the home — alimony was necessary in a divorce to help the woman out in the wake of the split.

While some marriages are still like this, many Florida couples share joint incomes. Both husband and wife have a job, and they both take care of the kids. They share their duties; their successes; their failures. So when these couples file for divorce, spousal support no longer means that the woman will get spousal support. It is a more fluid system that merely looks at which spouse needs the financial support, given that, without their spouse, they will be in a weak financial state.

Here in Florida, there are four different types of alimony: bridge-the-gap alimony (a short-term payment plan), rehabilitative alimony (payments that go towards re-education or skills acquisition for the receiving spouse), durational alimony (set amount of time for payments) and permanent periodic alimony (provides “necessities of life” granted during marriage to a divorced spouse). Alimony negotiations tend to be complicated — and given the numerous types of alimony, it behooves a divorcing spouse to be prepared for these discussions.

Eliza Coupe, one of the stars of the recently cancelled TV show “Happy Endings,” will need to be prepared after she and her husband — who is requesting alimony from her — filed for divorce.

Source: Daily Mail, “Not such a Happy Ending: Actress Eliza Coupe’s husband files for divorce after her hit show is also cancelled,” July 2, 2013