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Changes to alimony could be coming to Florida divorces

No two divorces are the same, even when they both involve the same elements. For example, if you are affluent and living in Florida, you might assume that your divorce will involve steep alimony payments because you know someone else who went through this recently and a judge ordered alimony in that case.

However, alimony is something that is not granted in every divorce. Unless you have a prenuptial agreement setting the rules for spousal support, it will be up to the courts to decide if one spouse should receive this money and what the payments will be based on specific details of the individual couple and marriage. Further, laws can and do change over time, which can dramatically impact alimony. For instance, recently, the Florida Senate approved a bill to revise spousal support in this state.

To begin with, the bill puts an end to permanent alimony. This is support that was typically reserved for people who were married for a long time and when one person -- usually the wife -- was at an incredible financial disadvantage due to not earning an individual income for several decades.

Under the new alimony structure, not only will lifetime alimony end, but alimony -- if awarded -- will be more precisely calculated using revised formulas to measure financial resources. By reinforcing the use of formulas, the hope is that spousal support will be more in line with child support in terms of predictability.

While the bill was approved in the Senate and now moves to the House, there are vocal critics who argue that it unfairly penalizes spouses who have left careers to take care of the family. According to opponents of the bill, ending lifetime support and focusing on the mathematical elements of alimony is harmful and marginalizes the emotional element of spousal support. 

Whether this bill will become law or not remains to be seen. In the meantime, it should serve as a reminder every divorce is unique and involves different elements, calculations and situations. Resolving contentious issues like spousal support can therefore require both parties to have legal guidance and an understanding of their individual rights and options.

Source: The Tampa Tribune, "Florida Senate passes divisive alimony, child custody revisions," March 4, 2016

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