Florida Alimony Reform: How Long is a “Long-Term” Marriage?

As Senate Bill 718 – which deals with Florida alimony and child custody reform – looks likely to be signed by Governor Rick Scott, this blog is exploring the various parts of the bill and discussing how they may affect Tampa Bay divorce and family law cases.

One area that this bill changes is the way that marriages are categorized as short-term, moderate-term, and long-term.  The reason this matters is because the Florida Statutes prescribes the type, quantity, and duration of alimony that a judge is likely to award depending on the length of the marriage.

See Related: Child Custody Reform * Supportive Relationships

Right now (before the changes of Senate Bill 718), the law defines the length of marriage and the presumed appropriate types of alimony (after a judge has determined that one spouse has a need for alimony and the other spouse has the ability to pay) as follows:

  • Short-term marriage – Length:  less than 7 years.  Type of Alimony:  “Bridge-the-Gap” or “Rehabilitative” Alimony.  Bridge-the-gap alimony lasts for a maximum of 2 years, and its purpose is to help a person transition from married life to single life.  Rehabilitative alimony is ordered to help a spouse gain or relearn skills through education or training, and lasts so long as a spouse is receiving the training.
  • Moderate-term – Length:  at least 7 years but less than 17 years.  Type of Alimony:  “Durational” Alimony.  Durational alimony lasts, at a maximum, for the length of the marriage.  So, under current law, if a marriage lasted for 10 years, then a judge can order a spouse to pay durational alimony for up to 10 years.
  • Long-term marriage – Length:  At least 17 years.  Type of Alimony:  “Permanent, Periodic” Alimony.  This is the type of spousal support that most people think of when they hear the term “alimony.”  As the name suggests, this type of alimony lasts until either spouse dies (or until there has been a substantial change in circumstance sufficient for a judge to determine that the alimony needs to be modified or terminated).

Currently, the lengths of marriages are defined from the date of the marriage ceremony to the date of separation, which is usually, but not always, the date that a petition for dissolution of marriage is filed (other dates can be used, such as when the parties stopped living together, or when the parties both agreed that they are no longer fulfilling the role of husband and wife).

Under Senate Bill 718, the categories of marriage are completely redefined:

  • “Short term marriage” means a marriage having a duration equal to or less than 11 years, as measured from the date of the marriage to the date of filing the petition for dissolution.  There is a presumption that a judge should not award any type of alimony in a short-term marriage.
  • “Mid-term marriage” means a marriage having a duration of more than 11 years but less than 20 years, as measured from the date of marriage to the date of filing the petition for dissolution.  There is no presumption for or against an award of alimony in a mid-term marriage.
  • “Long-term marriage” means a marriage having a duration of 20 years or more, as measured from the date of the marriage to the date of filing the petition for dissolution.  There is a presumption that a judge should award alimony in a long-term marriage.

Senate Bill 718 deletes the category of permanent, periodic alimony, and redefines durational alimony so that it presumably lasts only 50% of the length of a marriage (e.g., if a marriage lasted for 20 years, durational alimony would generally only last 10 years).

Additionally, Senate Bill 718 clearly favors bridge-the-gap and rehabilitative alimony over durational for any length of marriage:  If a judge orders durational alimony he or she must make written findings that no other form of alimony is appropriate.

If Governor Scott signs Senate Bill 718 (and all signs indicate that he will), these changes in definition will go into effect July 1, 2013.

Update: Governor Scott Vetoes Senate Bill 718

If you have questions about how Senate Bill 718 will affect your Tampa Bay alimony matter, schedule a consultation with a Florida alimony attorney at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our contact form.

The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover encourages the use of the interdisciplinary collaborative divorce process when handling issues of alimony.


About Adam B. Cordover, Attorney-at-Law

Family Diplomacy is dedicated to helping clients restructure their families privately and respectfully. We practice exclusively in out-of-court dispute resolution, with a focus on collaborative divorce and family law, mediation, direct negotiations, and unbundled legal services. We maintain this out-of-court practice because we strongly believe that family disputes should be resolved in a private conference room, not in a hostile and public courtroom environment. This unique perspective on family law stems back to Adam B. Cordover’s experience studying International Affairs in Washington, D.C., and abroad. Adam had the rare opportunity to work closely with ambassadors and diplomats from war-torn regions around the world. He traveled around the globe, learning from diplomatic leaders as they applied dispute resolution techniques to tackle seemingly impossible conflicts. It dawned on him: If these techniques can work in the complex world of International Relations, why not Domestic Relations and Family Law? This realization lead Adam to create an exclusively out-of-court practice and to bring a more peacemaking approach to family law. In his previous role as a litigation attorney, Adam witnessed parties experience the negative emotional and financial effects that long, drawn out divorce battles can have on families. As a result, Adam has become a strong proponent of the Collaborative Process, where a structure is put in place so that life’s hardest moments do not have to be any more difficult than necessary. A thought leader in the international collaborative law community, Adam successfully spearheaded an effort of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit to draft an administrative order safeguarding the principles of collaborative family law (just the fourth such administrative order in Florida). Adam has been featured in or interviewed about collaborative practice by the Tampa Bay Times, Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, Miami Herald, Tampa Bay Business Journal, Florida Bar News, NBC, Fox 13, Bay News 9, ABC Action News, The World of Collaborative Practice Magazine, and Spirit FM 90.5. Adam regularly speaks at professional and civic organizations locally and internationally regarding the collaborative process. Adam B. Cordover is president of Next Generation Divorce, a 501(c)(3) and Florida’s largest interdisciplinary collaborative practice group with member attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals throughout Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Sarasota, and Manatee Counties. Adam is also on the Executive Board and co-chair of the Research Committee of the Collaborative Family Law Council of Florida. Further, Adam is a graduate of the inaugural class of the Leadership Academy of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. You can learn more about us and our services at www.FamilyDiplomacy.com. Attorney Adam B. Cordover is admitted to the Florida Bar and the United States District Court, Middle District of Florida. His office is located at 412 East Madison Street, Suite 824, Tampa, Florida 33602.
This entry was posted in Family Law Explanation, Florida Statutes, Legislative Update and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Florida Alimony Reform: How Long is a “Long-Term” Marriage?

  1. Johnny Davis says:

    This Bill should be singed as alimony in needed for the receving spouce to have time to put them selfs together but the paying spouce should not haft to pay for ever and not able to move on with there life , ? How many times will the Receving spouce haft to end seeing some one they really like and is good around there kids just becouse there alimony will stop this is not fair to nthem , there children , or the paying spouce juse as they do not look to be self supported this is like being in a cage for both of them .

  2. GH Petry says:

    Great article. My friend was divorced 2 years ago. Married for 12 years & is ordered to pay alimony for 11 years. Any chance this bill will retroactive ?


  3. Adrian says:

    Governor Scott is out of touch with Florida’s citizens. How much longer must we endure his antiquated presence? Can the FL Alimony Reform Bill be pushed through as law without his signature?

Leave a Reply to Johnny Davis Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s