Saturday, April 20, 2013

Bye Bye to Permanent Alimony?

Calling all permanent alimony payors and recipients! The Florida Legislature is currently debating whether permanent alimony needs a major overhaul. The decision rests in Governor Rick Scott's hands now. If the bill is signed, it will eliminate permanent alimony as is and create limits on the award of alimony based upon the length of the marriage. It will also change the definitions for short-term (up to 11 years), moderate term (11-19 years), and long-term marriages  (20+ years). In essence, all marriages 20 years and over will have a rebuttable presumption of permanent alimony, unless circumstances can prove otherwise. Alimony would not exceed 38% of the payor's gross monthly income.  For all moderate term marriages, alimony would not be presumed for either party. And for all short term marriages, there would be a presumption against alimony. Other proposals include capping the alimony payments to no more than half the length of the marriage, ceasing payments after the payor retires, and retroactively applying the law change to divorce judgments entered into before July 2013.  Lastly, the bill calls for equal time-sharing ("custody") of minor children apart from any exceptional circumstances.
Proponents of the bill stress the need for a fairer and more consistent framework for alimony. They further defend the bill explaining that the new guidelines would remove judicial discretion and the quality of one's attorney, by creating a more equal system. However, the bill's opponents believe the changes are "anti-women" as the majority of alimony recipients are women who chose to stay home and helped advance the careers of their spouses. Moreover, opponents argue that alimony awards should be a case-by-case decision free of concrete guidelines. 
Do we think this bill is gender neutral? Does the alimony system need a "one size fits all" structure? How fair is it to the couple whose payor spouse is close to retirement age? These are all legitimate concerns.
As a family mediator I will remain impartial. But I invite your comments about this controversial bill, which teeters on the edge of a decision.
Read more about the Florida Alimony Reform Bill:
Miami Herald 4/18/2013

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