Florida’s Alimony Chameleon—Where Do You Stand? Part 1 Of 2

By Kathryn DeVane Hamilton, Esquire and Parastoo Majd, Esquire

Alimony. Did most of us think about this dreaded word on our wedding day? Or when you decided to take a back seat in your career so your spouse could take that big job (or agreeing your spouse would stay home so you could)? What about when you decided to stay together for the kids until they finished school? It is unlikely that was on your mind, unless this was not your first go around.

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Unbeknownst to many of us, these decisions made during your marriage are going to affect you long after your marriage ends. If you are thinking about ending your marriage, you are probably asking, “Where do I stand?” Even more daunting, the alimony laws in Florida are perpetually changing. Whether you will be paying alimony or are the recipient, it would be wise to consult experienced family law counsel like Kathryn DeVane Hamilton in Miami, Florida before you end your marriage.

Alimony is a court-ordered payment from the wealthier spouse to the spouse with a need for their living expenses. It is awarded both during the divorce and for a period of years after the divorce is final. Florida currently recognizes five types of alimony: 1) temporary; 2) bridge-the-gap; 3) rehabilitative; 4) durational; and, 5) permanent. In ordering how much and for how long, the court has broad discretion after finding one spouse’s need and the other spouse’s ability to pay from their income. Shockingly, the standard to determine one’s monthly need varies across Florida’s district courts. What county you file your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in can make a difference as to how much you will receive or have to pay.

The alimony laws were significantly affected after the passage of President Trump’s tax reform effective January 1, 2019, because the spouse paying alimony can no longer deduct the payment, and the spouse receiving the alimony no longer has to pay tax on their alimony. This affects the total amount of income available to pay.

More changes to the alimony laws are on the horizon. As of 2020, an alimony reform bill has been presented in the Florida Legislature. If alimony is a significant concern to you, these changes may influence whether you file for divorce now or continue in the marriage. What does the bill entail and will it survive? Read Part 2 of this series to find out more.

To consult Kathryn DeVane Hamilton, member of the exclusive Haute Lawyer Network, contact us.

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