Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Alimony Reform?

Happy New Year! With the new year comes the annual discussion of whether or not there is a need to reform our Florida alimony laws. There is legislation currently pending that is trying to radically reform our current alimony laws. A link to the pending legislation can be found by clicking on the "Alimony Reform?" title above.

All of us in the family law community have been discussing whether or not this particular bill has a chance of being passed and the general consensus is that it doesn't. These are the major points that are contained in the bill that would have the greatest effect on our current alimony laws:

1. Limitations on Awards of Attorneys' Fees- May not exceed the greater of $7,000.00 or the reasonable value of the representation of the party paying the fee.

2. Termination of Permanent Alimony and Creation of Long Term Alimony- This would be for marriages lasting more than 20 years in most cases and an obligor reaching the normal age of retirement is considered a substantial and permanent change of circumstances. There would be a rebuttal presumption that alimony terminates upon retirement of the obligor.

3. Requirement to Look at the Earning Capacity of Obligee Spouse- This would require an obligee to maximize their earning capacity and allows the court to impute all income to the obligee that could be reasonably earned after achieving maximum rehabilitation.

4. Supportive Relationship- This would require a refund of alimony paid and an award of costs and fees if the recipient of alimony denies the existence of a supportive relationship that is later found to be true and would prohibit the Court from reserving jurisdiction to reinstate alimony if the supportive relationship terminates.

5. Determination of Income- This would state that that the income and assets of the obligor's spouse or person with whom the obligor resides may not be considered in modification of alimony. Additionally, in initial proceedings, when determining the financial resources of each party, it would only include the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.

6. Standard of Living of Parties- There would be a rebuttal presumption that both parties will necessarily have a lower standard of living after the dissolution of marriage than the standard of living they enjoyed during the marriage. Additionally, an award of alimony may not leave the payor with less net income or with a lower standard of living than the recipient.

7. Life Insurance- If the court awards life insurance, the cost of the life insurance or a bond would be deducted from an alimony award.

8. Long Term Marriage- Would be defined as a marriage lasting 20 or more years.

While many of the things that are stated above, I do believe the Judges take into consideration when determining an award of alimony, if this legislation were to pass, the courts would be REQUIRED to follow these rules. Its already quite difficult for someone to receive a permanent alimony award, and its even more difficult to obtain awards of lengthy alimony if the recipient spouse is educated and capable of being self-supporting. It will be interesting to see whether this legislation passes. Please let me know your opinion on this issue by posting your comments here.