Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law
Alimony is on the forefront of many state law changes, including Florida. In the last two years, Florida has modified alimony provisions to make it less likely for permanent alimony to be awarded. While those changes have occurred, there is still a rising push to modify the laws even more to make it harder for permanent alimony to be awarded in a Florida divorce case. As a Jacksonville divorce lawyer, I see both sides to the argument given that my job is to represent my client, whether the husband or the wife. In so doing, it is vital that my understanding for the law be efficient enough to make arguments for and against alimony, which also makes it easier for me to properly prepare my clients for what may arise in his or her case.
The state’s interest in changing alimony has taken a national spotlight in recent months, including an article in The New York Times entitled, “In Age of Dual Incomes, Alimony Payers Prod States to Update Laws.” In 2012 it is more commonplace for both spouses to work during a marriage and the uprising in Florida and other states leads to the question of whether permanent alimony is really necessary in the 21st century. Permanent alimony was originally designed to protect the homemaker and caregiver upon the dissolution of the marriage because often women gave up their education and careers to provide such services in the home. The idea was that women should not suffer monetarily simply because they took care of the children and the home for 20 years.
Now, there are many individuals that feel permanent alimony is no longer necessary because more and more households have two working spouses. The request for changes in the Florida alimony laws is to make it harder for permanent alimony to be awarded in this type of environment because the necessity is lacking. The bill currently presented in the Florida House is one that takes some of the discretion from the Florida judges and puts limitations on the award of alimony. Presently, a lot of discretion rests in the hands of judges to make decisions regarding alimony and the bill will take much of that discretion away.
Supporters of the alimony changes seem to represent the minority of individuals that have been either awarded alimony or ordered to pay alimony in a way that is not financially sound. While there are many factors to be considered by judges in ruling on alimony, there have also been parameters that some judges uphold and others do not. The issue of alimony is two-fold because it should not be based on simply the incomes of the parties, but also the need for spousal support and an amount that puts the parties close to equal footing. The reality is that a majority of individuals that are ordered to pay alimony ultimately make more money over time and the alimony does not really impact them. However, they are not the ones that are petitioning for changes in the law, the ones that have been ordered to pay more than they can actually afford that are going to be the loudest.
Only time will tell what will happen with the bill currently in the Florida House, but one thing is most certain, change will happen. The laws do not often evolve as quickly as society, so there is often a lag in the timing of change on the State level, which is now being addressed.