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Florida bill removes permanent alimony, threatens past agreements

On behalf of The Walters Law Group, Ltd. posted in Divorce on Thursday, April 18, 2013.

A bill overturning permanent alimony law in Florida has passed the Senate and is expected to face a vote in the Florida House. At least one observer believes the change threatens predominantly those whose primary contributions to their marriages were not in the form of a paycheck. Passage of the law means these financially supported spouses may be forced to renegotiate divorce agreements. The Florida Bar Family Law Section is an opponent of the bill it claims is poorly worded and endangers judicial discretion.

The observer also states that many alleged problems are already solved by existing family law in Florida. Support payments may be modified, under current law, with “substantial change in circumstances” for the payer. If the recipient enters a marriage or is otherwise supported by a new partner, this is grounds for ending alimony. Existing law also provides durational alimony and a strict law that prevents the recipient’s income from exceeding the payer’s.

Mediation is a legal requirement for Florida divorces. Both parties must attempt negotiations outside the court room. This allows for more control over outcome and expenses by the parties. Some of those past agreements included supported spouses who gave up significant assets and real estate in exchange for permanent alimony. The new law will allow payers of permanent alimony to revisit their financial obligations in court.

The supported spouse in a marriage should always remain aware of the financial situation, and this is especially true in cases of divorce. At the end of a long-term marriage, an unclear picture of assets may lead to devaluation of one party’s contributions. A divorce attorney may be able to answer questions and assist in accessing a couple’s financial documents.

Source: The Miami Herald, “Know the financials before divorce,” Jennifer Failla, April 5, 2013