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Reassessing Florida alimony

Couples marry, have children and raise them together. When the kids leave home, however, sometimes the parents find themselves staring at each other, wondering what they have in common. Increasingly, divorce follows. One parent might even have quit working or taken a huge pay cut to stay home with the children. He or she will now need to upgrade their expertise or change careers in this new season of life if they divorce.

The spouses will have to go through property division first, dividing such assets as life earnings, such as savings, IRA accounts or real estate. One spouse will often be ordered to pay alimony during this time of transition. But in Florida, a judge can order alimony payments until the spouse who didn't work or made less money remarries or until one of them dies.

"Permanent alimony" means that a working spouse may pay alimony for the rest of his or her life to the spouse who did not work during the marriage. Some in Florida, however, are saying this needs to change.

The concept may have worked to protect stay-at-home moms during a time in America when many women stayed at home and raised the children. But in today's day and age, the nightmares of permanent alimony cause more harm than good, some argue. In addition, if finances change for the supporting spouse, it can be a time-consuming and costly process to modify the court order. With the instability of the economy, financial changes can happen quickly and often.

Some of the proposed legislation includes switching to a formula that considers income and the length of the marriage. It also limits the maximum payments to one-third of a person's net income and stops alimony at retirement.

Divorce attorneys can protect the rights of clients who are going through a divorce. Understanding your rights is the first step toward getting a fair agreement.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, "What we think: Debate alimony reform, but make sure it's fair," Nov. 23, 2012

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