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Governor Vetoes 2013 Florida Alimony and Child Custody Reform Bill

In an unexpected turn of events, Florida Governor Rick Scott has vetoed Senate Bill 718, which envisioned broad-ranging changes to Florida alimony and child custody laws.  If signed, the bill would have created a presumption in favor of 50/50 child custody, eliminated permanent alimony, and permitted (in certain circumstances) those who had already been ordered to pay alimony to seek a modification based on the new law.

Governor Scott’s veto letter reads, in part:

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Florida Alimony Reform: How Long is a “Long-Term” Marriage?

As Senate Bill 718 – which deals with Florida alimony and child custody reform – looks likely to be signed by Governor Rick Scott, this blog is exploring the various parts of the bill and discussing how they may affect Tampa Bay divorce and family law cases.

One area that this bill changes is the way that marriages are categorized as short-term, moderate-term, and long-term.  The reason this matters is because the Florida Statutes prescribes the type, quantity, and duration of alimony that a judge is likely to award depending on the length of the marriage.

See Related: Child Custody Reform * Supportive Relationships

Right now (before the changes of Senate Bill 718), the law defines the length of marriage and the presumed appropriate types of alimony (after a judge has determined that one spouse has a need for alimony and the other spouse has the ability to pay) as follows:

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Florida Alimony Reform: Supportive Relationships

As Senate Bill 718 dealing with alimony reform and child custody reform has passed both houses of the Florida Legislature and seems likely to be signed by Governor Rick Scott, this blog will attempt to explain how various aspects of the bill may impact Florida and Tampa Bay family law cases.

If signed, most changes (including changes to Florida’s supportive relationship laws) will go into effect July 1, 2013.

Currently, Florida law permits a person who has been ordered to pay alimony (called an “obligor”) to seek a modification or termination of his or her alimony order if he or she can prove that the spouse receiving alimony (called the “obligee”) is in a supportive relationship.  As the law stands now, even if the obligor can prove that the obligee is in a supportive relationship, a judge has the option, but is not required, to modify an alimony order.

The language of Senate Bill 718 changes the supportive relationship statute as follows (new language is underlined while deleted language is stricken):

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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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Alimony Reform Bills Coming to Florida Legislature

Bills that seek to change Florida’s alimony laws are coming to the Florida House (HB 231) and Senate (SB 718).  The bills, supported by Florida Alimony Reform, seek to do the following (according to the Florida Bar News):

HB 231 would do away with permanent alimony in almost all cases and make other changes.  It would create the presumption of no alimony in “short-term” marriages up to 10 years, and there would be no presumption in favor of either party for alimony in “mid-term” marriages of 10 to 20 years.  In the latter cases, the party seeking alimony would have to prove the need for alimony by a preponderance of the evidence, and payments would be limited to the lesser of 50 percent of the differences in the spouse’s income or 20 to 30 percent of the paying spouse’s net income, based on the length of the marriage.

Alimony would be presumed as needed on “long-term” marriages of over 20 years, but would be limited to the lesser of 50 percent of the income difference or 33 percent of the paying spouse’s net income.  An extra 10 percent could be awarded if the receiving spouse is determined to be disabled under Social Security standards.

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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.

Does Florida Have Alimony Guidelines?

When judges and child support hearing officers determine what amount of child support a parent should pay, they have a formula to help guide them to a proper child support amount. These guidelines take into account each party’s income, the amount of time a child spends with each party, and the amount of money each party spends on healthcare and daycare for the child.

So does Florida have any similar guidelines to help a judge determine a proper amount of alimony?

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