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2016 Florida Alimony Reform Bill Vetoed

The Tampa Bay Times is reporting that Florida Governor Rick Scott has vetoed SB 668, a bill that was intended to make large-scale changes to the state’s alimony and child custody laws.

Rick Scott (cropped).jpg

For the first time, the bill was set to create alimony guidelines that calculated a presumptive range for the amount and length of spousal support.  Further, the bill would have directed judges, when establishing custody schedules, to start out with the premise that each parent should have approximately an equal amount of time with children.

It was that second point that seemed to be the sticking point for Governor Scott.

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2015 Florida Alimony Reform – Proposed Factors for Alimony

In a previous post, I wrote about Florida House Bill 943 and the proposed alimony guidelines contained in the bill.  Florida currently has no guidelines for alimony, and the bill creates formulas which would implement presumptive ranges for the amount and duration of alimony that a judge could order, making awards more predictable.

As an update to my prior post, HB 943 has been amended.  As of the date I am writing this, the years of marriage is multiplied by 1.5%, rather than 1.25%, in the formula to determine the low amount of alimony that a judge could order.  There are likely to be more changes to the bill before the it passes both houses of the Florida legislature and is signed into law (if, indeed, it makes it that far).

So, if the alimony guidelines become official, where in the range of amount and duration of alimony will any particular award fall?  The bill sets out certain factors to help a judge make this decision:

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Florida Family Law: Mandatory Disclosure

When you file and serve a petition in a Florida family law case that involves financial issues such as child support, alimony, or the division of property in debts, a clock starts ticking.  Within 45 days of the initial pleadings being served on the respondent, each party is required to provide the other party with a whole host of financial documents and information.

This is what is known as Mandatory Disclosure, and it is governed by Rule 12.285, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure.

The following are a list of documents that are required to be exchanged:

(1) A financial affidavit in substantial conformity with Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.902(b) if the party’s gross annual income is less than $50,000, or Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.902(c) if the party’s gross annual income is equal to or more than $50,000, which requirement cannot be waived by the parties. The financial affidavits must also be filed with the court. A party may request, by using the Standard Family Law Interrogatories, or the court on its own motion may order, a party whose gross annual income is less than $50,000 to complete Florida Family Law Rules of
Procedure Form 12.902(c).

(2) All federal and state income tax returns, gift tax returns, and intangible personal property tax returns filed by the party or on the party’s behalf for the past 3 years.

(3) IRS forms W-2, 1099, and K-1 for the past year, if the income tax return for that year has not been prepared. Read more

Florida Child Support & Alimony: What is an Obligee? What is an Obligor?

If you are going through a Florida family law case involving alimony or child support, you have probably run into the terms “obligee” and “obligor.”  So what do these terms mean?

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Modifying Florida Alimony

Now that Senate Bill 718 on alimony reform has been vetoed by Florida Governor Rick Scott, many Tampa Bay residents are wondering whether there is any way to modify or terminate their alimony obligations.  The answer, in many cases, may be yes.

Chapter 61 of the Florida Statutes states that most types of alimony may be modified or terminated when there has been a substantial change in circumstances that affects the receiving spouse’s need for alimony or the paying spouse’s ability to pay. Case law tells us that a “substantial change in circumstances” means a change that was unanticipated at the time the alimony was ordered by the Court, and a change that is permanent, involuntary, and material. Examples of substantial changes in circumstance that may justify upward or downward modification include health issues, long-term unemployment, a big raise, or a large inheritance.

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Florida Child Custody Reform 2013

There has been a lot of press lately about efforts to reform Florida’s alimony laws.  As discussed on this blog, Senate Bill 718 (which primarily deals with alimony reform) passed the Florida House by a wide margin (85 Yeas versus 31 Nays) and, since it had also passed the Florida Senate, will be going to Governor Rick Scott for his signature.

Update: Governor Scott Vetoes Senate Bill 718

One area that may be even more significant, but has not received as much coverage, is language in Senate Bill 718 that reforms Florida’s child custody laws.  Currently, there is no presumption in favor of or against any child custody schedule, including a 50/50 split custody (known as equal time-sharing).  Senate Bill 718, however, adds language to section 61.13 of the Florida Statutes that seems to make a strong presumption in favor of equal time-sharing.

The text of the child custody provisions of Senate Bill 718 is reproduced below (deleted language is stricken while new language is underlined):

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Update: Florida House Debates Alimony Reform Bill

Right now, the Florida House is debating the alimony reform bill (SB-718).  You can watch the current session at the following link:

http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/VideoPlayer.aspx?eventID=2443575804_2013041204.

Update:   SB-718 has overwhelmingly passed the Florida House.

Update: Governor Scott Vetoes Senate Bill 718

Read a previous post on alimony reform for more information.

Summary of Florida Alimony Reform Bill

House Bill 231, which proposes broad-reaching changes to Florida’s alimony statute, has passed the Civil Justice Subcommittee.  It next goes to the House Judiciary Committee.

The Judiciary Committee provides the following summary analysis of HB 231:

Alimony provides financial support to a financially dependent former spouse. The primary elements to determine entitlement are need and the ability to pay, but the statutes and case law impose many more criteria. There are four different types of alimony: bridge-the-gap alimony, rehabilitative alimony, durational alimony, and permanent alimony. An award of alimony may be modified or terminated early in certain circumstances.

The bill makes a number of changes to current law on alimony and dissolution of marriage. The bill:

  • Eliminates permanent alimony.
  • Eliminates consideration of the standard of living established during the marriage as a factor in determining alimony.
  • Creates presumptions for earning ability imputed to an obligee.
  • Requires written findings justifying factors regarding an alimony award or modification.

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In Florida, Can A Husband Be Awarded Alimony?

When you think of Florida alimony, you might only consider those times when a husband is ordered (or agrees) to make spousal support payments to a wife.  But we no longer live in the 1950’s.  I am running into more divorce situations where the wife earns significantly more than the husband, and the wife is ordered (or agrees) to pay alimony to the husband.

An award of alimony to a husband is made based on the same exact factors that an award of alimony to a wife is made.  The primary consideration is the husband’s need for spousal support, and the wife’s ability to pay.  Once a court has determined that there is a need and ability to pay, the court will determine the length and extent of the alimony award after considering the following factors:

(a) The standard of living established during the marriage.
(b) The duration of the marriage.
(c) The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.

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Income Withholding Order

For quite some time, Florida has permitted child support and alimony payments to be deducted directly from a person’s paycheck.  This had been done through an income deduction order authorized by section 61.1301 of the Florida Statutes.

Recently, the federal government mandated that OMB Form 0970-0154 (Income Withholding for Support Order) be used in place of state income deduction forms.  Accordingly, Hillsborough County’s Thirteenth Judicial Circuit has published a packet which includes the federal Income Withholding Order along with the Florida Addendum to the federal order and a Payment Information Sheet.

If you have a matter involving Florida alimony or child support and you are looking to schedule a consultation with a Tampa Bay family law attorney, contact The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., at (813) 443-0615 or by filling out our online form.