The Florida legislature is considering alimony reform which will dramatically affect those who will pay and receive alimony, and most divorce attorneys have a uniquely objective view on the subject. Typically, we represent equal numbers of alimony payors and recipients. The pending bills largely, though not entirely, favor individuals who pay alimony.
Going beyond alimony, the Senate version of the bill would have the children of divorcing couples spend half of their time with each parent. This approach to post-dissolution parenting seems to disregard persistent objections from legal and psychological experts regarding similar past attempts. Such a presumption is the proverbial “one-size-fits-all” approach to highly complex circumstances varying greatly from family to family. This part of the proposed legislation serves a particular interest group but not families or children.
The alimony portion of these bills, perhaps with a few changes, is likely to become law. Alimony as we have known it for more than 30 years would end along with its different types for different purposes. Although a few of the same purposes might be considered, the essential components of amount and duration would be determined by formulae. The amount would derive from a range based upon marriage length, (using a maximum of 20 years), and difference between parties’ incomes. However, the combined amount of child support and alimony could never exceed 55 percent of the payor’s net income. The duration would be range from 25 to 75 percent of the years or marriage. Exceptions would be allowed, but history suggests those occasions would be rare.
The proponents of alimony reform argue that it will create predictability and consistency, and, consequently, reduce conflict and litigation. Opponents contend that this type of reform would encroach on judicial discretion to tailor awards for specific needs and circumstances of individuals and families. For better or worse, the proposed legislation is mostly political and not based upon an apolitical need for change.