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House and Senate Discuss Major Changes to Florida Alimony Laws

By: Christina O’Brien, Esq.

Two alimony reform bills moved forward during the first week of the Florida legislative session, with one referred to several Senate committees recently. SB 1596, filed by Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, has been referred to three committees for debate: the Judiciary; Children, Families, and Elder Affairs; and Rules. Meanwhile its sister bill, HB 1325, filed by House Rep. Brad Drake, R-DeFuniak Springs, received a first reading this week in the House.

Proposed Marriage Categories

Under the proposed legislation, marriages would fall into three categories:

  • long term which is 20 years or more;
  • mid-term which is more than 11 years but less than 20; and
  • short-term which is less than 11 years.

Impact of Proposed Changes

The bills would also bring major changes, including:

  • eliminating permanent alimony;
  • setting a durational limit and amount of alimony based on the length of the marriage and the obligor’s gross monthly income;
  • allowing persons ordered to pay alimony under a court order entered prior to July 1, 2019 to modify the amount or term of alimony under certain circumstances; and
  • creating a presumption that equal timesharing is in the best interest of the children in most circumstances.

Debate

One area of contention will be that the bills allow for a modification of alimony that was ordered prior to July 1, 2019. A similar bill containing such retroactive effect was passed by the House and Senate in 2013, but was vetoed by Governor Scott. In his veto letter, Governor Scott stated that

“I have concluded that I cannot support this legislation because it applies retroactively and thus tampers with the settled economic expectations of many Floridians who have experienced divorce. The retroactive adjustment of alimony could result in unfair, unanticipated results.”

Adding equal timesharing language will bring concerns as well. During past legislative sessions, the 50/50 timesharing presumption drew critics, and it became the reason former Governor Rick Scott cited for his veto of an alimony reform bill in 2016.

The Legislative Session has just begun so we will bring you any updates or significant revisions to these bills. If passed, the bills would take effect July 1, 2019. If you have any questions or concerns regarding alimony or any other aspect of family law, please feel free to reach out to me at christina.obrien@henlaw.com or by phone at 239-344-1279.