Yaffa Family Law Group
By: Doreen Yaffa

All About Florida’s Alimony Reform Bill Veto

Alimony

The alimony reform bill was sent to the Florida Governor for his consideration in which he subsequently vetoed. This is not the first time a bill such as this one traveled through the Legislature; in fact, this is the third go around. Former Florida Governor Rick Scott vetoed similar legislation back in 2013 and 2016. This bill drew emotional debate from people on both sides of the issue during committee meetings that ended this past March.

One side of the argument spoke out against the bill, expressing how they agreed to give up certain assets to their soon-to-be ex-spouse at the time of their divorce in exchange for permanent alimony awards. The other side of the argument felt this bill would modernize Florida’s alimony laws by making the process more equitable and predictable for divorcing families. The Family Law Section of The Florida Bar, who were opposed to the bill, lobbying against it, thanked the Governor for his rejection of the bill.

This bill would have changed how a marriage is categorized. A short-term marriage would have changed from 7 years to one of “fewer than 10 years.” A moderate-term marriage would be between 10 and 20 years, rather than the current 7 to 17, and a long-term marriage would be defined as a marriage lasting 20 years or longer, rather than the current 17 or more.

Additionally, if the spouse paying alimony reaches the age of retirement before the end of the alimony duration, a court would have been able to choose to let alimony end upon retirement. Lastly, this bill would have made the presumption that 50/50 timesharing is in the best interests of children common to the marriage.

The biggest change the bill proposed is abolishing permanent alimony unless there is no other form of alimony “appropriate or reasonable” according to current Florida law, or if it is agreed to. This bill would have been applied retroactively, repealing court-ordered permanent alimony for many dependent on the same, on all modifiable agreements.

The Florida Governor’s veto letter pointed to concerns about the bill allowing ex-spouses to have existing alimony agreements amended. The Governor stated in his veto letter, “If CS/CS/SB 1796 were to become law and be given retroactive effect as the Legislature intends, it would unconstitutionally impair vested rights under certain preexisting marital settlement agreements.”