Alimony Reform . . . Again

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Alimony on Tuesday, September 24, 2013.

Way, way, back in May of ’13, the Florida Legislature passed a major alimony overhaul bill, which was surprisingly vetoed by Governor Scott in a midnight session. Once again, the threat is returning. Another attempt is being made by Florida legislators to rewrite the state’s comprehensive divorce law.

Some other key changes being considered are:

  • Seeking a reduction in payments when divorcees retire.
  • Automatic payment cuts if an ex-spouse loses a job or takes a salary reduction.
  • Changing the way child custody is awarded.
  • How to calculate alimony.

As the Sun Sentinel reports

Though there have been minor changes over the years, critics say Florida law is antiquated and based on a time when most women stayed home to care for the family, giving up their earning potential. That has left some ex-spouses paying alimony for years and made it difficult for people to move on with their lives, plan for retirement and possibly re-marry.

The old and new bills addressed alimony and child custody:

In April, the Legislature passed legislation that would have ended permanent alimony, capped awards based on a person’s income and the length of the marriage, and let the ex-spouse petition to terminate or lower alimony payments upon retirement.

However, that bill had a crazy provision which allowed it to be applied retroactively to all prior judgments and agreements in Florida. While the law would have given relief for ex-spouses paying alimony – by allowing them to re-open their cases – every single contract and court order involving alimony could have been renegotiated or re-tried.

It would have been utter chaos.

Governor Scott vetoed that bill, saying the retroactivity provision “tampers with the settled economic expectations of many Floridians who have experienced divorce” and “could result in unfair, unanticipated results.”

This time around, legislators are removing the retroactivity clause from a revised bill that they expect lawmakers to consider in 2014:

while specifics are still being worked out, many of the vetoed bill’s other provisions to cap and otherwise limit future alimony payments likely will remain.

Last Spring’s vetoed legislation included language that automatically presumed timesharing would be split 50-50. That was a major problem for child advocates and family law attorneys.

Reformers says their main goals now are to end permanent alimony – basing duration of payments on the length of the marriage – and to make clear that if a paying spouse’s income drops in the years after a divorce settlement, the alimony payment should also be reduced.