“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact.  Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”         – Marcus Aurelius

The Florida Legislature is currently considering changes to Florida’s alimony statute.  Although it is a creature of statute, alimony has a long history predating the founding of our country.  The term “alimony” comes from the Latin word alimōnia meaning nourishment or sustenance.  The Code of Hammurabi (1754 BC) declares that a man must provide sustenance to a woman who has born him children so that she can raise them.  The modern concept of alimony is derived from English ecclesiastical courts that awarded alimony in cases of separation and divorce.[1]

During the current legislative session, both the Florida House and Senate have proposed nearly identical Bills, suggesting a consensus for change. In its present form, the alimony statute requires a weighing and balancing of statutory   factors.  These include:  the length of the marriage, the disparity of income between the parties, and the lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage.

The proposed new law, as reflected in the bills introduced, would impose guidelines on both the amount and the duration of alimony. These guidelines suggest upper and lower limits, allowing for judicial discretion within the limits imposed.

For example, the amount of alimony will be determined under the house and senate bills as follows:  the lower end is 0.0125 multiplied by the number of years of marriage multiplied by the difference between the monthly gross incomes of the parties.  The upper end is 0.020 multiplied by the number of years of marriage multiplied by the difference between the monthly gross incomes of the parties.

The duration of the alimony will be determined as follows:  the lower end is .25 multiplied by the years of marriage.  The upper end is .75 multiplied by the years of marriage.  Marriages under two years are weighed heavily towards zero alimony awards.

There are other features of the proposed bills, including the definition of income to include imputed or potential income; the definition of under employment to take into account a person’s education and ability to earn income; a view of the standard of living that notes that two households will have a lower standard of living than a single married household; and a maximum payment of child support and alimony that cannot exceed 55% of the payor’s income.

At this point in the process,   family law attorneys and their clients must wait for the results of the legislative process.  No one who pays alimony likes it. No one who receives alimony can do without it.  From the payor’s perspective, it can be a life sentence. From the payee’s perspective, it replaces the security that the marriage once provided.  The imposition of guidelines to the process will eliminate or at least reduce the disparate treatment of similarly situated payors and payees.

by Patrick Gaffney

by Patrick Gaffney


[1] Wikipedia, Alimony