The “What If” of Alimony Reform

Supporters of Florida alimony reform contend that current alimony laws are old-fashioned and unfairly reward former spouses. These laws were written at a time when most women did not work outside the home, and they had little economic bargaining power.

The Alimony Reform Bill, sponsored by Representative Mitch Workman, R-Melbourne, and Senator Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, would have eliminated permanent alimony. The bill also included a provision that would have capped alimony payments based on length of marriage. Although the bill would have eliminated permanent alimony, other forms such as bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, and durational alimony would have remained available. Additionally, the bill would have allowed couples to retroactively renegotiate their divorce settlements to comply with the new caps.

Supporters say the bill promotes fairness and reduces judicial discretion in granting alimony awards. Critics, however, contend that the bill unfairly targets women, especially those who choose to stay home. There is not a clear political division on this issue in the Florida legislature because many Democrats support it and many Republicans oppose it.

The Alimony Reform Bill passed the Florida legislature. On May 2, 2013, however, Governor Rick Scott vetoed the bill. Governor Scott objected to the retroactive application, contending that it would have unfair and unanticipated results. In an attempt to get around Governor Scott’s veto, Rep. Workman eliminated the retroactive provision and attempted to tack the revised bill on to another pending child custody bill before the House in an admitted “Hail Mary” maneuver. Workman’s efforts, however, were fruitless and the 2013 legislative session ended without addressing alimony reform again.

Although alimony reform was not resolved during this legislative session, it remains a hot topic because many Floridians think that the law needs to be updated. Reform will likely be addressed in the new legislative session, but whether it is enacted into law remains anyone’s guess. If it does become law, you may be able to modify your existing alimony. Until then, however, the old alimony laws remain in effect.

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