TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- In a 74-42 vote, the Florida House passed a bill Wednesday that would end permanent alimony in the state. It's a move that drew praise from some and had others calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto the bill.
"What's changing is that the different types of alimony that exist in Florida are now going to face severe limits as to the duration that they can exist," said Jeffrey Swartz, a professor of law at WMU Cooley Law School's Tampa campus.
What You Need To Know
- SB 1796 passed the Florida House Wednesday
- If signed into law, the bill would change how alimony is paid
- The group Florida Family Fairness says the bill would make the process more equitable and predictable for all
- The Family Law Section of the Florida Bar is calling on the governor to veto the bill
- READ THE BILL: SB 1796
The bill states, "durational alimony may not exceed 50 percent of the length of a marriage lasting between three and ten years, 60 percent of the length of a marriage lasting between 10 and 20 years, or 75 percent of the length of a marriage lasting 20 years or longer." That can be extended in some circumstances, including if the person seeking alimony is disabled and can't provide for themselves.
"The second thing is that there are strict guidelines now on how to compute what that alimony should be," Swartz said. "The changes will be significant because it also deals with the issues involving supportive relationship after the marriage is over and during the time an alimony is being paid."
Swartz said that means if the person receiving alimony is being financially supported by someone else, the former spouse paying the support can request to end payments.
"Now, we're going on a need basis, not the idea of maintaining a certain standard of living," Swartz said.
The group Florida Family Fairness praised the move, saying in a statement the bill would "modernize Florida's alimony law by making the process more equitable and predictable for all parties."
The House vote is also drawing strong reaction from those against the bill.
"The biggest potential impact is that those contracts those folks entered into, the alimony awards that they were counting on, the budgets that they created based on those existing alimony awards, those are in severe jeopardy," said Andrea Reid, a member of both the Florida Law Section of the Florida Bar's executive council and legislative committee.
Reid said the law would apply retroactively, meaning existing alimony agreements could be eradicated or significantly reduced. Of particular concern is part of the bill that states alimony payments can end before the time laid out based on the length of the marriage if the person paying support retires.
"I think the conversation gets complicated because proponents of the bill are saying, 'Yes, it applies retroactively, but you could always modify based on retirement, so it doesn't do anything that doesn't currently exist in statute,'" said Reid. "But the reality of that is really important if you pull back the surface. What this bill does is it takes existing awards of alimony that people have agreed upon contractually and marital settlement agreements or what they've been awarded through courts, and what it does is it creates an entirely new process for doing that. The previous process had certain safeguards in it, such as making sure the retirement was necessary, that the retirement was proper, that the retirement was being done at the correct age. The new bill does not ask that question."
Reid said based on the Family Law Section's interpretation of this bill, if one member of a 65-year-old couple didn't work for much of the marriage in favor of being a homemaker and that couple retired and then divorced, the person who was the homemaker wouldn't be entitled to alimony. The section is calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto the bill.
There's much more to the bill, including the establishment of a presumption of equal time sharing with children. For more information on this and other details, you can read the full bill here: