In a previous post, I wrote about Florida House Bill 943 and the proposed alimony guidelines contained in the bill. Florida currently has no guidelines for alimony, and the bill creates formulas which would implement presumptive ranges for the amount and duration of alimony that a judge could order, making awards more predictable.
As an update to my prior post, HB 943 has been amended. As of the date I am writing this, the years of marriage is multiplied by 1.5%, rather than 1.25%, in the formula to determine the low amount of alimony that a judge could order. There are likely to be more changes to the bill before the it passes both houses of the Florida legislature and is signed into law (if, indeed, it makes it that far).
So, if the alimony guidelines become official, where in the range of amount and duration of alimony will any particular award fall? The bill sets out certain factors to help a judge make this decision:
The financial resources (including actual and potential income) and ability of each spouse to meet his or her reasonable needs independently;
The standard of living of the parties during the marriage with consideration that neither party may be able to maintain that standard of living as there will be two households after the divorce;
Whether there was an equitable distribution of marital property;
Both parties’ income, employment, and employability, obtainable through reasonable diligence and additional training or education, and the details of such additional training or education plans;
Reduction in employment due to the needs of an unemancipated child of the marriage or the circumstances of the parties;
Whether either party has foregone or postponed economic, educational, or employment opportunities during the course of the marriage;
Whether either party has caused the unreasonable depletion or dissipation of marital assets;
The amount of temporary alimony and the amount of time it was paid to the recipient spouse;
The age, health, and physical and mental condition of the parties, including health care needs and unreimbursed health care expenses;
Significant economic or noneconomic contributions to the marriage or to the economic, educational, or occupational advancement of a party;
The tax consequence of the alimony award; and
Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.
Many of these factors are similar to the current items a judge must consider before awarding alimony. However, a couple of these are new or are slightly different.
Though current factors require a judge to consider the standard of living of the parties during the marriage, the new proposed factor states explicitly that the parties should not expect to be able to maintain the same standard of living in two households as compared to when everyone lived in the same household.
Further, alimony is oftentimes paid during divorce proceedings. This is known as Temporary Alimony. For the first time, this bill instructs judges to consider the amount and duration of Temporary Alimony paid when determining a final alimony award.
One major downside to these proposed factors (and the current factors) is that they still bring divorcing spouses’ finances into to the public scrutiny of the courthouse. If spouses want to maintain their privacy, their best bet is still to reach an agreement on alimony, which most judges will gladly ratify. The collaborative divorce process allows parties to privately reach an alimony agreement with the assistance of an accountant or financial adviser to help them decide an amount and duration of support that is appropriate for their family.