Governor DeSantis Vetoes Alimony Bill
By: Iman Zekri, Esq.
The Governor’s Veto
One of the most controversial and emotionally charged issues of the state’s 2022 legislative session involved legislation that would overhaul Florida’s existing alimony law. Senate Bill 1796 would have eliminated permanent alimony, offered individuals paying alimony a path toward retirement, and created an equal time-sharing presumption.
In vetoing the bill, Governor DeSantis cited the retroactivity of the legislation, stating that the bill would unconstitutionally impair vested rights under certain preexisting marital settlement agreements. Similar bills were previously vetoed by former Florida governor Rick Scott in 2013 and 2016.
Alimony Provisions in Senate Bill 1796
The most significant effect of the proposed legislation would have been the elimination of permanent alimony. In addition to putting an end to permanent alimony, the bill would have limited the availability of durational alimony to marriages lasting longer than three years. Further, the bill would have removed a court’s ability to consider the adultery of either spouse in determining the amount of an alimony award.
The legislation also contained extensive provisions related to retirement in an effort to allow individuals paying alimony to reduce payments when seeking to retire. The Family Law Section of the Florida Bar strongly opposed the bill and urged Governor DeSantis to veto the bill because of its retroactive impact.
The Equal Time-Sharing Presumption
With regard to child custody, the bill would have established a 50/50 time-sharing presumption for minor children in divorce cases. Existing Florida law provides that there is no presumption for or against the father or mother of a child, or for or against any specific time-sharing schedule. On the other hand, Senate Bill 1796 would have implemented a presumption that equal-timesharing is in the minor child’s best interests. Critics of the bill argued that the presumption was not child-focused and not in the best interests of minor children.
In sum, this is not the first time (and probably not the last time) that Florida lawmakers will endeavor to adopt alimony reform measures. Members of the Florida Legislature have made repeated attempts to overhaul Florida’s alimony law in recent years. While the form of a suitable bill is subject to much debate, one thing is clear: Enhancing predictability and clarity in the realm of alimony would benefit divorcing spouses and their attorneys by providing some semblance of consistency and certainty in an often muddled area of the law.
Those needing assistance in navigating the Florida divorce process or having other questions about family law matters may contact me directly at (239) 344-1119 or email@example.com.