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    Till Death “Due” Us “Apart”: A Call to Reform Florida’s Permanent Alimony Scheme

    Alison Andrade
    By Alison Andrade

    Imagine being a 72-year-old physician diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, who can no longer walk nor talk. Even though his illness mentally incapacitates him, he must continue to pay $25,200.00 annually pursuant to his ex-wife’s permanent alimony award even though she is a college professor who can likely support herself financially.[i] Alimony is the periodic payment of a predetermined sum awarded to a former spouse with a divorce agreement.[ii] Under current Florida law there are five types of alimony, one of them being permanent. Because some permanent alimony awards could continue even after retirement, many senior citizens could find themselves giving a large portion of their Social Security checks to their ex-spouse. Other senior citizens might be unable to retire at all in order to fund their ex-spouse’s alimony payments. The current law is unfair and antiquated and allows individuals to abuse the system while creating a culture of dependence. To address this inequity, Florida must reform its alimony statute—and it may be happening this very year.

    Most people get married with the intention that they will be together until death—or divorce— “do them part.” However, under Florida’s current permanent alimony law, it is possible to stay tied to your ex-spouse even after divorce. Florida is currently one of six states that allows awards of permanent alimony. Pursuant to Florida Statute § 61.08, permanent alimony can be awarded in cases involving long-term marriages (marriages lasting a minimum of 17 years). In exceptional cases, permanent alimony can be awarded in short-term marriages (marriages lasting less than seven years).[iii] In addition, other factors are considered such as employment history, income, expenses etc. Currently, permanent alimony can terminate at the death of either party, if the recipient remarries, or if there is a substantial change in circumstances.[iv]

    Although permanent alimony is an outdated law established when divorces were rare, and women faced impoverishment after divorce, it still exists despite the fact that times have changed. As of 2022, women account for 50.04% of American jobs.[v] In addition, 38.3% of women in the United States have completed four or more years in college, compared to 3.8% of women in 1940.[vi] Although the percentage of men being awarded spousal support is increasing, there is still a significant gender disparity when it comes to alimony.[vii] As such, reformation is needed for a fairer system that is more in line with modern women’s current educational and financial status.

    Recently, the Florida Senate proposed SB 1796, which aims to put an end to a court’s ability to grant permanent alimony. SB 1796 is an attempt to modernize Florida alimony law. By ending awards of permanent alimony this revision to Florida’s current alimony laws creates a fair system for all parties.[viii] SB 1796 seeks to establish clear guidelines that set the maximum duration and amount of alimony to create a more consistent system. The proposed bill sets to eliminate permanent alimony in future divorces and would repeal court-ordered permanent alimony. The bill would leave the option of durational, rehabilitative, and bridge-the-gap alimony awards. Furthermore, this proposed bill terminates alimony upon retirement, thus removing a judge’s discretion to accept or deny modification.

    Although bills similar to SB 1796 have been previously vetoed in Florida, reformation must occur. Not only does permanent alimony create financial struggles for the payor, but it also tends to increase litigation. In fact, different states that have implemented similar legislation reforming permanent alimony, such as Massachusetts, have seen a decrease in litigation and an increase in settlements.[ix] In addition, the modernization of Massachusetts alimony law has aided in the development of a fair system that leads to a complete termination of the spouse’s relationship and has developed a path towards independent living.

    SB 1796 will likewise modernize Florida’s current alimony laws and provide a fairer system. The proposed bill would end the perpetual obligation to an ex-spouse and result in maximizing the former spouse’s freedom. Consequently, this reduces costly litigation and minimizes judicial interference. In this case, the reformations that would follow the enactment of the proposed bill would render this a more neutral alimony system for Floridians. SB 1796 will allow two individuals who made the decision to separate, to truly cut off ties and have an end in sight.

    [i] Yamiche Alcindor, Should alimony laws be changed?, ABC News (Jan. 18, 2012)

    [ii] Julia Kagan, What is Alimony?, Investopedia, (last updated Aug. 31, 2021).

    [iii] Fla. Stat. § 61.08 (2021).

    [iv] Fla. Stat. § 61.08(2)(a-j) (2021).

    [v] Eric Morath & Amara Omeokwe, As Jobs Cap 10 Years of Gains, Women are Workforce Majority, Wall St. J. (Jan. 10, 2020)

    [vi] Erin Duffin, Percentage of the U.S. population who have completed four years of college or more from 1940 to 2020, by gender, Statista (June 11, 2021)

    [vii] Louise Rafkin, The Paradox of Alimony for Men, N.Y. Times (Oct. 30, 2021)

    [viii] S. 1796, 2022 Leg., 124th Sess. (Fla. 2022). The full text of Florida Senate Bill 1796 is available at:

    [ix] Jess Bidgood, Alimony in Massachusetts Gets Overhauled, With Limits, N.Y. Times (Sept. 26, 2011)

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