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Florida law seeks to limit spousal support

Divorce papers. How much alimony should spouses receive?
Divorce papers. How much alimony should spouses receive?
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Lawmakers in Florida have passed a law to cap amounts and duration of alimony payments. Governor Rick Scott could still choose to veto the controversial bill. Proponents frame it as a retirement issue. They say too many breadwinners find themselves on fixed income while paying former spouses who receive social security.

Opponents say the bill would make stay-at-home parenting impossible. As the Associated Press details, "[The legislation] would make it harder to get alimony in short-term marriages and would generally prevent alimony payments from lasting longer than one-half of the length of the marriage.The bill defines a short-term marriage as less than 11 years, in which there's an assumption that alimony would not be awarded. If alimony is granted, it would not be more than 25 percent of the ex-spouse's gross income.

For failed marriages between 11 and 20 years, there's no assumption either way, but alimony would not amount to more than 35 percent of the ex-spouse's gross income. And in long-term marriages, those longer 20 years, there would be an assumption in favor of alimony, though not more than 38 percent of an ex-spouse's gross income." In California, most of this is up to the judge's discretion. For marriages longer than 10 years, orders for spousal support are indefinite in nature. Once a payerr retires, s/he must file a motion and request the court reduce or stop support.

Is Florida heading in the right or wrong direction on this issue? With more Americans facing retirement, should there be a new policy discussion of long-term spousal support? What could be the unintended consequences of such a bill? Is it anti-family by dissuading stay-at-home parenting?

David Pisarra, Divorce Attorney, (based in Santa Monica)

Paul Nathan, Law offices of Paul Nathan (based in San Francisco)