WHAT TO EXPECT IN SEPARATION SETTLEMENTS NEW BILLS SET TO CHANGE LONG-STANDING DIVORCE STATUS QUO
If you read our January newsletter, you know there could be big changes coming to the alimony laws of Florida. While the proposed alimony reform has no retroactive effects, it may affect our community in some significant ways. Here is what you need to know to make sure you and your family are ready. The bills, HB 843 and SB 1832, have already been passed by Florida’s House Civil Justice Committee. But if they’re ultimately adopted into law, they would eliminate permanent alimony and cut the length of durational alimony in half. “If you owe money in a permanent alimony context, you may never be allowed to retire,” Rep. Alex Andrade told Florida Politics. “Forty-four other states in the country have figured out that’s forced labor.” The bills would also streamline the adjustments made to alimony when either party retires. A 1992 Florida Supreme Court ruling found that retirement counts as an involuntary change in income and can modify alimony. But Andrade stated that codifying it in state law would save Floridians from making costly appeals in court. It’s essential to recognize that this change would not have any retroactive benefits unless your circumstances change between now and when the law is passed. There are some aspects to the bills that the Florida State Bar Association opposes. Michelle Klinger Smith, a lawyer who represents the family law section of the Florida Bar, argued that retroactive benefits should be applied. Smith also recommended limiting the income considered for alimony to just the payer’s, “SMITH ALSO RECOMMENDED LIMITING THE INCOME CONSIDERED FOR ALIMONY TO JUST THE PAYER’S, DISCOUNTING ANY FUTURE SPOUSE OR CO-EARNER. SHE REASONED THAT A PARTY COULD USE THIS STIPULATION TO HIDE ASSETS TO LIMIT HOW MUCH THEY PAY IN ALIMONY.”
which would discount any future spouse or co-earner. She reasoned that a party could use this stipulation to hide assets to limit how much they pay in alimony. Local Florida resident Natalie Willis, meanwhile, spoke in support of the bills. She told the committee she divorced her ex-husband 13 years ago over his refusal to work or take care of their home. Now, she says, she won’t be able to retire due to her alimony payments. “People argue alimony is about rich people trying to skirt their obligations,” Willis said to Florida Politics. “But the wealthy don’t pay alimony because they settle on a large sum, and the poor certainly don’t pay alimony. It’s the trusting, middle- class worker bees like myself who bear the burden.” Alimony is a rough and complicated process. Even if these bills are passed, there will still be a lot of questions and concerns to address regarding how they could affect you and your family. If any of these amendments are keeping you up at night, never hesitate to call. I would be happy to explain all the interesting facets of the bills. Call us at 407-245-7723 or visit our website at DeWittLaw.com.
– Moses DeWitt
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PERSONAL INJURY - DIVORCE - REAL ESTATE
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