Florida lawmakers recently advanced a bill that could change the way alimony works. The bill still has a long way to go before it becomes law, but it already highlights some more unusual aspects of Florida’s spousal support.
As WFSU notes, the bill would put stricter limits on alimony payments. It would mostly do away with permanent awards, cap the duration on rehabilitative support and promote the use of bridge-the-gap payments. But what are these different types of alimony, and how could they affect your divorce?
Florida’s four types of alimony
Under Florida law, courts have the authority to grant alimony to either party of a divorce. Such payments are supposed to ensure the divorce is equitable, and the court can order either party to make these payments on a regular schedule or as a lump sum.
Beyond this, Florida law defines four different types of alimony, each of which corresponds to a different goal:
- Bridge-the-gap. This is short-term support aimed at short-term goals, such as helping the lower earner find new footing after the divorce. Bridge-the-gap alimony is not to exceed two years. This is the type of award favored by the bill currently circulating in the Florida House.
- Rehabilitative. This type of support is awarded to individuals who need further education, skills or experience to become reasonably self-supporting. An award of rehabilitative alimony should be accompanied by a plan for the rehabilitation. The bill would limit such plans to five years.
- Durational. The law says courts can award durational alimony “when permanent periodic alimony is inappropriate.” Awards of durational support consider the length of the marriage, among other factors, and the bill would limit durational awards to no more than half the length of the marriage.
- Permanent. Florida is one of only six states that still allow for alimony awards with no end in sight. These awards are generally reserved for lengthier marriages, but courts can award permanent support even for shorter marriages with “findings of exceptional circumstances.”
As the lawmakers behind the current bill note, these “findings of exceptional circumstances” can be troubling. Florida law gives the court a lot of freedom to interpret the law, as well as to weigh factors such as adultery that other states rarely touch.
How likely is the law to change?
If you’re looking to get divorced and wonder how alimony might factor in, you probably shouldn’t count on the law to change anytime soon. The bill recently cleared the House Civil Justice Subcommittee, but it hasn’t yet seen a vote in the House or Senate.
However, it still serves as a valuable reminder that there’s more than one type of Florida alimony.