The Florida Legislature probably didn’t have Led Zepplin’s 1969 song “Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman)” in mind when similar bills recently advanced in both the House and Senate which would eliminate permanent alimony in Florida. Opponents of the bills say that, like “Living Loving Maid,” the proposed law is misogynistic ( ie. characterized by a hatred of women.) On the other hand, a group known as Florida Alimony Reform has compiled an impressive list of real life “horror stories” about spouses, more often than not men, who have been buried by alimony awards. In many instances, the payor spouse is required to live in poverty to support the former marital life style of his or her ex or they have been required to work long after normal retirement.
Before I discuss the proposed new law, it is necessary to step back and examine Florida’s existing alimony laws. Alimony in Florida is governed by Florida Statute 61.08. The statute first requires a court to determine if either spouse has an actual need for alimony and then to determine if the other spouse has the ability to pay same. Only then may the court consider such factors as standard of living, length of marriage, age and health of the parties and services rendered in homemaking and child care, among others. The law defines a short term marriage as one of less than seven years, a moderate term marriage as one of greater than seven years but less than 17 and a long term marriage as being 17 years or greater.
Depending on the length of marriage and other factors, a court may award (1) bridge-the-gap alimony in order to ease the transition from being married to single not to exceed two years in duration, (2) rehabilitative alimony to provide assistance to a spouse for education or training to become self-supporting, (3) durational alimony to provide a spouse with economic assistance for a set period of time not to exceed the length of the marriage or (4) permanent alimony to provide for the needs and necessities of life as they were established during the marriage for the spouse who lacks the financial ability. Permanent alimony terminates upon death of either party or upon the re-marriage of the recipient spouse. As an aside, the Florida legislature enacted a law several years ago which allows a spouse to terminate or modify an alimony award if the recipient spouse is involved in a supportive relationship (ie.living with a unrelated person of the opposite sex where economic support, among other things, is being provided or received.)
The new alimony reform bill will, if passed, abolish permanent alimony, create a formula for an alimony award, limit virtually all alimony awards to 50% of the length of the marriage and allow former spouses to go back to court to modify their now existing alimony obligations based solely upon the new statute. This last provision seems like a divorce lawyers relief act.
If the proposed alimony legislation passes, then Led Zepplin’s mega-hit, “Stairway to Heaven” might contain more appropriate lyrics. Stay tuned...