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Permanent alimony is a controversial topic

Spousal maintenance remains controversial in the U.S., especially when it comes to permanent maintenance. Minnesota is among the states that allow spousal maintenance, also known as alimony, to be permanently awarded as part of a divorce order.

Many observers say that permanent alimony is unfair, and that many recipients, mostly women, could earn an income but choose not to. Others say that permanent alimony is necessary in many cases, such as when the recipient is a single parent who gave up his or her career during the marriage.

The Florida Legislature is considering a bill that would do away with nearly all permanent spousal maintenance in the future. The bill would require family court judges to order payments that last within boundaries based on how long the spouses were married.

Specifically, judges generally would have to order alimony for 25 to 75 percent of the length of the marriage. To deviate from these guidelines, the judge would have to explain his or her reasoning in writing.

This is not the first time opponents of permanent spousal maintenance have tried to change the law in Florida. A bill passed in 2013, but Gov. Rick Scott vetoed it, because the law would have applied retroactively. That meant that already existing alimony orders would have been affected.

In Minnesota, the law has the court consider several factors when determining whether to grant permanent or temporary alimony. These include how much marital and separate property the spouse asking for alimony is receiving, to help him or her maintain the standard of living established during the marriage, as well as his or her ability to support him- or herself.

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