Legislature Fails to pass New Florida Alimony Statute and 50/50 Timeshare
The Florida legislature did not pass the proposed new alimony statute which would have eliminated permanent alimony. The failure to pass was not attributed to issues over the alimony bill but rather as a result of the legislature’s ongoing battle over health care. Therefore, alimony will continue to be evaluated under the existing laws and financially dependent spouses in long term marriages may seek permanent alimony.
However, it is clear not only by the proposed new legislation that permanent alimony is no longer in favor and judges may look unfavorably on a relatively young spouse asking for permanent alimony. If a spouse is in their 30’s or 40’s a rehabilitation expert could opine that the non-income earning spouse could work and their failure to do so demonstrates willful unemployment. In that case, if the proposed payor spouse presents compelling evidence to demonstrate that the proposed payee spouse could be working, the judge may not award permanent alimony. The amount and length of alimony will depend on the income of the spouse or spouses, the length of the marriage and the life style established during the marriage. But increasingly life style is a less important factor because in most cases the parties cannot maintain the same lifestyle they had while they were married living in one household.
Also failing to pass was proposed new presumption that all families divorcing would split 50/50 time share with their children. A “presumption” in the law means that the Court is directed to do what is presumed and the burden will be on the party wishing to change the presumption to prove that it should not apply. Overcoming presumptions is difficult and can be expensive. The Family Law section of the Florida Bar opposed the 50/50 time share presumption since it did not focus on the best interests of the children and instead focused on the parent’s entitlement to spend time with their children. While in many cases 50/50 time share is the right choice it certainly should not be a presumption.