Florida law would end permanent child support and reform the duration of payments

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Among the bills set to pass through the Florida Legislature in 2022 is one aimed at limiting alimony payments when a marriage is dissolved.

House Bill 1395 entitled “Dissolution of Marriage” establishes time limits and conditions for the payment or receipt of alimony. The bill was proposed in the Property Rights Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee by Rep. Alex Andrade, R-Pensacola.

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If passed, Andrade’s proposed law would change the way alimony is calculated and collected. According to the text of the bill, the way the court ordered child support, spousal support from a previous marriage, and payments for insurance, union dues, pensions, and health insurance are all on the table for change.

HB 1395 said one change that would come about was a change in what the courts would qualify for standard of living adjustments after the dissolution of a marriage. Under current law, financial ability is presumed to be based on the standard of living after the end of a marriage. This change is based on a couple ending their joint income and switching to two individual incomes.

The wording of the bill states that if passed, the presumption of a lower standard of living “may be overcome by a preponderance of evidence”.

In addition, the draft law proposes a change in the payment period when determining alimony. When HB 1395 goes into effect, different types of marriages would be codified into state statutes depending on the time a couple was married.

As written, a short-term marriage would be one of “less than 10 years” rather than the current seven. A medium-term marriage would be between 10 and 20 years of marriage, rather than the current seven to 17 years, and a long-term marriage would be defined as a marriage lasting 20 years or more, rather than 17 or more.

Under these new definitions of marriage length, alimony would be assessed based on the length of a marriage. First, the bill proposes the creation of an awarded “bridging alimony” to cover payments to a spouse for up to two years. Such alimony would end if someone remarries or dies before the allotted time is up.

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Another form of alimony, rehabilitating, would now have a five-year vesting period. Rehabilitating alimony, under the bill, will be awarded for helping a party to earn their own living after a marriage has ended. This is intended to cover either the re-development of previous skills or credentials, or the acquisition of new education, training or work experience to acquire new professional skills or credentials.

In order to receive rehabilitation support, there must be a plan. If this plan is completed prior to the specified duration of a rehabilitation maintenance award, payments will end when the plan ends.

Permanent alimony, intended to provide economic support for a specified period of time, would be amended to include a new requirement for couples breaking up.

Rather than being generally granted after a marriage has ended, permanent maintenance would not be permitted for marriages lasting less than three years. In addition, when granting alimony, the bill establishes deadlines for alimony payments based on the length of the marriage.

The payment times are set as follows:

  • Payments for 50% of the time for a marriage between three and ten years
  • Payments for 60% of a marriage lasting between 10 and 20 years
  • Payments for 75% of a marriage lasting more than 20 years

However, the bill also proposes that a party desires maintenance and is “either permanently mentally or physically disabled and unable” to provide for all or part of themselves, or be the full-time domestic caregiver for a child with permanent mental disabilities or physical disability, a Florida court may extend child support until either the child dies or the court determines that the need for child support ends.

According to the draft law, the duration of marriage is “the period beginning on the date of marriage and ending on the date on which an action for dissolution of marriage is filed”.

Essentially, it counts the date of a marriage from the date one of the spouses files for divorce as the point in time for determining alimony limits. Even for the award of several types of maintenance, the courts may have to “make written findings of fact”. The courts may find other types inappropriate under the HB 1395 statute.

In rare cases, perpetual alimony may be granted only when no other form of alimony is “appropriate or appropriate” under applicable Florida law. HB 1395 instead removes the ability to receive permanent alimony.

According to analysis of the bill, Florida legislature currently allows adultery to address how alimony may be determined and that spouses seeking alimony for a dissolution of the marriage for adultery must produce evidence in court

So, if you want to divorce your spouse for cheating on you and still receive payments, you must prove to the court that the adultery occurred and put the burden of proof on the alleged adultery victim, not the spouse accused of cheating.

Andrade’s bill eliminates the ability to use adultery as a factor in determining alimony. If the dependent spouse, the breadwinner, reaches retirement age before the end of the alimony period, a court may decide to let the alimony end upon retirement.

However, if the spouse chooses not to retire and continues to work and earn more than 50% of their gross active income in the three years before retirement age, the court may extend the alimony payment periods until actual retirement or until their income falls below that level the 50% margin.

Additional amendments relating to child support and timeshare for a minor child were also proposed by HB 1395. Specifically, passage of the bill would make equal time-sharing, or 50/50 time-sharing, a court preference. Legislative analysis says the bill would change state statutes to create “a presumption that equal time-sharing” is in the child’s best interest unless the parents agree to a different time-sharing arrangement.

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