Divorce is supposed to be an exit from a lifetime commitment, but for too many Floridians, divorce itself becomes a lifetime commitment through permanent alimony payments. And, in fact, permanent alimony is only one of six forms of alimony that a Florida judge can award in a divorce settlement.
A court does not take the decision to grant permanent alimony lightly. When making a determination regarding permanent alimony, a judge is required to consider a number of factors, including the length of the marriage, the incomes of the spouses and the standard of living the parties enjoyed within the marriage. Permanent alimony is typically granted only when the judge determines that the receiving spouse has a “need” for permanent alimony because that spouse is unable to support themselves at a standard of living that they became accustomed to in the marriage and when the paying spouse has the ability to pay the permanent alimony. The Judge must include in his order the finding of fact that justifies an award of permanent alimony but the amount of a permanent alimony award is subject to the discretion of the trial judge.
For the second time in recent years, there is an effort being made to change the law on permanent alimony. A new bill to reform the law has been introduced into the legislature that would try to standardize the amount of permanent alimony awarded by trial judges. Last year, although a similar bill garnered House-wide support, passing 83-30, it did not make it through the state senate. The new bill also proposes a formula that averages the incomes of both spouses to determine the payment amounts, rather than leaving the amount up to a judge’s discretion. Proponents of the bill hope that a standardized and predictable process will help make an already stressful and often upsetting process fairer.