Permanent alimony (typically paid to an ex-spouse until they remarry or die) remains an option for Florida family law courts and divorcing couples for now, despite continued efforts to do away with it. Florida state legislators adjourned the 2021 session without passing legislation that would eliminate it.
Efforts to change the state’s options for spousal support are nothing new. They’ve been going on for over a decade. When Sen. Rick Scott was still Florida’s governor, he vetoed two pieces of legislation that made it to his desk. The latest attempts didn’t make it anywhere near the governor’s office.
Both sides have strong feelings – and powerful lobbyists
Attempts at alimony reform have brought out strong emotions from those who say their permanent alimony obligations have prevented them from being able to retire. On the other side are dependent spouses who spent their marriages caring for their children and home who may never be able to make up for the years they spent out of the job market. Both sides are represented by powerful lobbyists.
The Senate bill that died in the legislature this past session was sponsored by a state senator from Sarasota who vowed to try again next year. The House had a similar alimony reform measure that went nowhere.
Other provisions in the proposed legislation
The House bill included a provision that assumed that child custody would be shared equally. That kind of provision has stopped alimony reform measures in the past. However, the representative behind that bill says the provision simply codified the “50-50 standard starting point” where most judges begin anyway. It also included a provision that would end alimony obligation if a spouse entered into a “supportive relationship” with another person even if they didn’t marry them.
There are a number of other options for alimony in Florida that don’t mandate payment potentially for the rest of your or your spouse’s lives. Further, it may be possible for a permanent alimony order to be modified if circumstances warrant. Whichever side of the alimony order you’re on (payor or payee), it’s essential to understand Florida’s family law statutes so that you can seek what is in your best interests.