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Permanent alimony targeted by reform groups in Florida

As in many parts of the country, the debate over alimony reform has taken hold in Florida. During the most recent legislative session, reformers mounted a bid to outlaw permanent alimony, but their bill failed to earn the approval of a sufficient number of lawmakers. Undeterred, they have said they will support a new piece of legislation next year.

Supporters of alimony reform seem to have the biggest bone to pick with the awarding of permanent or lifetime alimony. They argue that it is unfair for the paying spouse to have to provide financial support that can last, in some cases, after a person has ceased working, requiring a payor to draw on retirement funds. In addition, a court can order a paying ex-spouse to provide more money at the recipient's request, as long as the request is justified. Alimony reformers would also like to see more predictable awards, noting that judges will give recipient spouses in similar situations disparate amounts of alimony.

Florida alimony laws have not been completely static during recent times, however. Under legislation passed a year ago, judges must find that no other alimony arrangement--such as one lasting for a period of time so that the recipient spouse can establish a career--would be "fair and reasonable" before awarding permanent alimony. In addition, the law made it harder for permanent alimony to be awarded in marriages lasting up to and including seven years.

Of course, alimony is an important part of many divorces. Some spouses may need financial support because they sacrificed years of earning potential and career advancements in order to raise children. Alimony can provide the bridge needed for a spouse to achieve financial independence.

The issue of reform will be a prominent one in the years to come. The legislative efforts of reformers--whether successful or not--will inform the terms of many divorces in Florida. We will continue to provide updates on future developments as they become available.

Source: Sun-Sentinel, "'Second wives' activist fights lifelong alimony," Donna Gehrke-White, July 13, 2012.

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