Lifetime alimony, or permanent alimony, as it's commonly referred to, may be referred to "history" before the month is through. Aggressive lobbying and legislative efforts have several bills wending their way through the Florida Legislature that would end the viability of permanent alimony in Florida.
While many argue for and against lifetime alimony, or the practice of a primary breadwinner providing alimony for life following a divorce, some parts of the law leave reason for concern.
One, for example, will remove almost all discretion from the courts and leave alimony decisions up to the law as written. Members of the Florida Bar Family Law Section are adamantly opposed to such a provision. Courts - not rigid guidelines - are best suited to serve the needs of each individual divorce case or action.
Another concern is the retroactive nature of the bill. If passed and signed into law, it could affect existing divorce settlements. Alimony paying husbands are arguing for this component of the law, hoping to change agreements already signed. Constitutional lawyers argue that the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from making laws that impair existing contracts. Such language would clearly impair the alimony settlement, or contract.
What's more, what if a payer elected to make a lump-sum payment at the time of a divorce settlement, in lieu of paying alimony? In that case, the payer would have no opportunity to go back and address or recapture that money already paid.
While the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar is working to correct prevalent disinformation among the public - and convince Florida Gov. Rick Scott not to sign the bill, the prevailing opinion is that it will pass both houses and receive his signature.
The law may also address the establishment of a presumption that 50/50 timesharing or child custody is in the best interests of the child. This is a radical departure from standard practice in many family courts. The best interests of the children should be the paramount concern, without presumptions one way or the other.
Now, courts and legislators are exploring timesharing and alimony. Yet, as with the alimony argument, many family law attorneys and courts prefer such discretion is left to family court judges, and not legislators.
One can only hope that if the bill becomes law, that judges will indeed have the discretion to apply judgment and guidance individually to each case that comes before their court. Otherwise, the ending of lifetime alimony or establishing timesharing that's in the best interests of the children - and not the agenda of a parent - may be a part of history.
The Law Office of Barry I. Finkel P.A., handles complex divorce litigation for a variety of clients, including high net worth individuals. As a divorce and family law firm, the practice serves the needs of the entire family. Established in Fort Lauderdale / Broward County, Florida, in 1992, and now in Boca Raton, Florida, the firm's lawyers provide trusted matrimonial counsel to clients facing turbulent times and unsettling circumstances. For a consultation or to schedule an appointment, please call 954-776-1414.