Florida, a state where thirteen percent of marriages end in divorce, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, has enacted new laws transforming the regulations around divorce and alimony payments. After years of deliberation, the new laws have shifted the landscape for divorcees in the state.
End of Permanent Alimony
The most significant change to the existing legislation is the removal of permanent alimony as an option. Previously, judges had four distinct ways to award alimony during a divorce case: Bridge-the-gap, Rehabilitative, Durational, and Permanent. With the new law, permanent alimony is no longer feasible.
These changes notably affect individuals like Camille Fiveash, who has relied on permanent alimony following her 30-year marriage, which ended over a decade ago. Fiveash, who spent her married years raising children and maintaining the household, stated, “It’s the difference between literally eating, living. I rely 100 percent on that alimony. I have no other real income.” The new law only applies to future divorce cases, and any alterations to existing divorce agreements must adhere to the new regulations.
Changes to Duration and Rehabilitative Alimony Eligibility
Additional adjustments have been made to the duration and rehabilitative alimony eligibility. The specifics of these alterations have not been explicitly defined, leading to confusion among some affected parties. As a result, legal professionals like St. Petersburg family attorney Nicole Pearlman are fielding numerous calls from clients seeking clarity about the implications of the new laws. Pearlman explained, “The court is always going to start with need and ability; that has not changed.”
Public Response to The New Laws
Responses to these changes have been varied. The First Wives Advocacy Group, a collective voicing concerns for divorced women, criticized the changes, stating that the new law would devastate older women financially.
Others, like Sonia Delgado, who has been paying alimony for a decade, view the changes differently. Delgado, compelled to continue working past retirement age due to her alimony obligations, welcomes the changes. She argued, “If the marriage doesn’t last, then why should the lifestyle and support last? The logic is it didn’t work, so each part needs to do the best they can to be independent.”
Alterations to Child Support
When dealing with child support, only one significant change has been made. Parents who relocate within 50 miles of their children now have the option to adjust time-sharing portions of their agreement, subject to the judgment of the court in considering the child’s best interests.
The law also allows ex-spouses to seek modifications to alimony agreements upon retirement. Furthermore, an amendment to the statute now requires courts to reduce or end alimony if the person receiving alimony is in a supportive, non-marital relationship. Pearlman clarified this, stating, “A lot of people think in their heads, well, I’m not going to marry this person, so I get my alimony still. But that’s not the way it works.”
The future implications of these new laws are still unknown, with the potential for dramatic financial impact for both alimony payers and recipients. For an in-depth understanding of these changes, visit the Florida Bar Association’s website.
The New Florida divorce laws represent a significant shift in the legal landscape for those navigating the challenging process of divorce. These changes reflect the continuing evolution of societal norms and expectations surrounding marital roles and responsibilities, financial independence, and child custody.