Friday, April 5, 2013

New Alimony Law Passes Senate

After a third reading in the Florida Senate yesterday, CS/CS/SB 718, innocuously titled “Family Law”, was approved by that body with a vote of 29 yeas to 11 nays, and is now on its way to the House Clerk for a first reading and committee assignment.  The most recently amended version of the bill text is available here.  In very brief, the bill would:

  • change equitable distribution to require the use of a coverture fraction for division of marital appreciation on pre-marital assets;
  • permit security and interest for installment payments for equitable distribution;
  • change the length of a “long-term” marriage for alimony purposes to 20 years;
  • change a “short-term” marriage to one of 11 years in length or less;
  • require the Court to prioritize bridge-the-gap alimony, followed by rehabilitative alimony, over any other form;
  • require written findings for combined alimony awards;
  • place a burden of proof on the party seeking alimony to show need as a first matter, then determine ability to pay, then employ the traditional alimony factors;
  • eliminates from alimony consideration non-marital assets not relied on by the parties during the marriage;
  • create a presumption that everyone’s standard of living will decrease after a divorce;
  • limit security for alimony awards;
  • limit the length of time for durational alimony awards;
  • set higher burdens to overcome the presumption against alimony for short-term marriages;
  • detail the manner in which the presumption in favor of permanent alimony for long-term marriages may be overcome;
  • bar alimony from being awarded to a party with the higher income;
  • bar imputation of social security benefits against the obligor based on a social security retirement benefits letter;
  • if the obligor is unemployed at the time of the Petition for more than a year but less than two automatically impute them 80% of their former salary;
  • If unemployed for more than 2 years but less than 3, 70% income would be imputed;
  • if more than 3 but less than 4, 60% income is imputed;
  • if 4-5, then 50% income is imputed, and if more than 5 years, then 40% or minimum wage, whichever is greater;
  • add a presumption that equal timesharing is in the best interests of the child unless the court finds either detriment or clear and convincing evidence of extenuating circumstances;
  • Denies anyone the right to modify timesharing based on that on any final custody order entered before July 1, 2013;
  • Allows for upward modification of alimony if needs are not met at time of dissolution based on clear and convincing evidence which must include federal tax returns, and limits any finding of permanence in an obligor’s income to at least 2 years in length before a modification can be granted;
  • Requires termination with a supportive relationship unless clear and convincing evidence shows alimony is still needed;
  • Creates a rebuttable presumption that modification or termination of alimony is retroactive to the date of filing, and if the oblige unnecessarily or unreasonably fights the termination, the court may award the obligor his fees under 61.16;
  • Bars modification of alimony based on modification of child support payments;
  • Bars modification of alimony based on remarriage or cohabitation of obligor and makes successor spouse income irrelevant;
  • Makes retirement a substantial change as a matter of law at a reasonable age with no intent to return to work;
  • Permits an anticipatory petition for termination of alimony effective upon the retirement date;
  • After a year requires the court to divorce the parties unless there will be irreparable harm and rule on the rest later; and
  • Makes many other changes to the current laws on dissolution of marriage.

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