Written by Tova N. Verchow, Senior Associate Attorney
On June 30, 2023, Senate Bill 1416 was signed into law, incorporating significant changes to the law governing alimony in the State of Florida (i.e., Sections 61.08 and 61.14 of the Florida Statutes). In plain terms, the major changes this bill codifies include: the elimination of permanent alimony, a maximum term of alimony based upon length of marriage, guidelines for determining the maximum amount of alimony to be awarded, codification of case law as it pertains to modification of alimony due to retirement, as well as changes to Florida law governing supportive relationships.
With regards to the provisions effecting Section 61.08, the changes apply to all petitions for dissolution of marriage or support unconnected with dissolution of marriage pending or filed on or after July 1, 2023. However, the changes to the provisions of Section 61.14 take effect July 1, 2023.
The following is a brief summary of the most notable changes reflected in Section 61.08:
- Permanent alimony has been eliminated as a form of alimony. Effective July 1, 2023, the following four (4) forms of alimony remain available to spouses who have a “need” for alimony: temporary, bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, and durational.
- The classification of the term of marriage has been adjusted as follows: short-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of less than 10 years; moderate-term marriage is a marriage having a duration between 10 and 20 years; and long-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of 20 years or more.
- The overarching standard is still that the party seeking alimony has a need for it and that the other party has the ability to pay.
- The following is a “cheat sheet” of the existing forms alimony (excluding temporary alimony) the maximum term allowed for each, and the modifiability thereof.
FORM OF ALIMONY
May not exceed 2 years.
Not modifiable in amount or duration.
May not exceed 5 years.
May be modified or terminated in accordance with Fla. Stat. §61.14 based upon a substantial change in circumstances, upon noncompliance with the rehabilitative plan, or completion of the rehabilitative plan if the plan is completed before the alimony term expires.
Note: May not be awarded in a marriage lasting less than 3 years.
May not exceed:
50% of the length of a short-term marriage;
60% of the length of a moderate term marriage; and
75% of a long-term marriage.
Upon exceptional circumstances, the court may extend the term of durational alimony (after application of certain factors delineated therein).
May be modified or terminated based upon a substantial change in circumstances in accordance with Fla. Stat. §61.14.
- The new statute now applies a calculation/guideline for determination of the amount of durational alimony. In this regard, the amount of alimony is the amount determined to be the obligee’s reasonable need, or an amount not to exceed thirty-five percent (35%) of the difference between the parties’ net incomes, whichever amount is less.
Section 61.14 of the Florida Statutes governs, in part, the modification of alimony. Senate Bill 1416 incorporated changes impacting the law of modifications. For instance, although the prior iteration of the statue allowed for modifications on the basis of a “supportive relationship,” Section 61.14 now contains clarifying provisions regarding supportive relationships and the application thereof. In this regard:
- Section 61.14 now requires the court to reduce or terminate an award of alimony upon a finding of a supportive relationship (the language was changed from “may” to “must”).
- The nature of the relationship qualifying as a “supportive relationship” has been expanded from “a person who is not related by consanguinity or affinity and with whom the oblige resides” to simply “a person who is not related by to the oblige by consanguinity or affinity,” thereby eliminating the threshold requirement of cohabitation. However, cohabitation is still a factor for consideration under Section 61.14(1)(b)2.
- If a supportive relationship is proven to exist or to have existed in the three hundred sixty-five (365) days before filing, the burden shifts to the obligee to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the court should not reduce or terminate an existing award of alimony.
- The court is required to consider and make written findings of fact regarding all relevant factors in 61.08(3) as well as the eleven (11) factors outlined in 61.14(1)(b)2.
In addition to the above outlined changes concerning supportive relationships, the new statute includes language regarding the impact of retirement on an alimony award and effectively codifies the long-standing precedent set by Pimm v. Pimm, 601 So. 2d 534 (Fla. 1992). More specifically, the court is authorized to reduce or terminate an award of alimony upon finding that the obligor has reached normal retirement age as defined by the Social Security Administration or the customary retirement age for his or her profession and that the obligor has taken demonstrative and measurable efforts or actions to retire or has actually retired. If the obligor meets his or her burden to prove that retirement has reduced or will reduce the obligor’s ability to pay, then the burden shifts to the obligee to prove that the obligor’s alimony should not be reduced or terminated. An obligor may file a petition for modification in anticipation of retirement, but not more than 6 months before retirement.