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New alimony law ends permanent support

The concept of marriage has been in the media spotlight for much of the year and took a prominent place in the previous election cycle. While much of this attention has focused on whether or not the right to marry should be extended to same-sex couples, other recent developments center around the end of marriage. A Florida bill recently took up the issue of permanent spousal support.

The Florida Senate approved a bill previously passed by the state's House of Representatives that puts an end to permanent alimony. The new law will also place a cap alimony based on the length of the marriage and a person's income. Additionally, a former spouse may petition to end or decrease alimony payments upon retirement.

Supporters of the new law say the latest revisions merely update outmoded laws to more closely conform to today's reality. They claim that laws in many states were born of a time when most women were homemakers and not part of the traditional work force.

Others state that the reforms in Florida, similar to those made in Massachusetts, undermine a pathway of financial support crucial to many women seeking to escape a failed marriage. Spouses, male or female, who agreed to forego career advancement to stay in the home and raise children may be particularly affected by the legislation.

The courts weigh many factors when determining the amount and term of alimony payments. Potential earning power, who will care for the children and the length of the marriage all come into play. Knowledgeable divorce attorneys can sometimes negotiate alternatives to the typical monthly payment arrangements, such as a single lump sum payment.

Also, judges have always had the power to adjust alimony payments depending on a party's work situation and income changes. Though with some additional restrictions, the new Florida law also allows for judges to exercise discretion in "special circumstances."

Source: Sun Sentinel, "Senate passes bill ending permanent alimony," Kathleen Haughney, April 4, 2013

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