Permanent alimony a thing of the past?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Permanent alimony is one step closer to being a thing of the past in Florida.

The Senate approved a measure that places guidelines for alimony based on the length of marriages. It could be taken up by the House as early as next week.

"Permanent alimony is not something that was always ordered by the courts," family attorney Jonathan Zahler said. "In fact, it's more of a rare case when you have that happen when you had a very long-term marriage and circumstances that merited that.

If permanent alimony is taken off the table, there is what's called durational alimony, which is based on how long someone has been married to another person. The bill would prevent courts from ordering alimony for longer than half the length of the marriage, meaning those married for 20 years would receive no more than 10 years worth of alimony. And the bill looks to change the length of marriage.

Currently, short-term is up to seven years, medium is seven to 17 years, and long-term is beyond 17 years. If the bill passes through the House, short-term would be up to 11 years, medium 11-20 years and long-term 20-plus years.

"What the length of the marriage had to do with is the presumption of what kind of and what type of alimony money was awarded," Zahler said.

There is another aspect of this bill -- equal time with custody rules.

"The days of every other weekend or maybe a little more are gone because the statute now says that equal time sharing of a child is in the best interest of the child," Zahler said.

The statute also would allow people involved in past divorces to get their alimony reviewed in court.

One local man says he pays his ex-wife alimony and hopes the bill passes.

"I didn't want her to leave," said William Bauer, who was married to his wife for 28 years. "I wasn't mean to her. Why should I have to pay for her decisions that she wanted to leave and live with another guy."

Others say they hope the bill doesn't pass in the House.

Facebook user Chelsea Turner says, "My dad was in the Army, so we moved all the time and (my mom) took care of everything, including four kids, for 30-plus years. And my dad decided he didn't want to be married to her anymore. She definitely deserves alimony for at least the 30 years she put up with him."

Women can also pay alimony, depending on the couple's income and circumstances. The changes would not alter the current structure of child support payments.

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