Add-On Kills Alimony Reform Bill
For the second time in three years, Governor Rick Scott vetoed an alimony reform bill.
Although the measure passed by fairly wide margins in both the state House and Senate, Governor Scott took issue with the presumption that a 50-50 parenting time split is the best possible custody arrangement. “This bill has the potential to up-end that policy in favor of putting the wants of a parent before the child’s best interest by creating a premise of equal time-sharing,” he wrote in his veto letter. “Our judges must consider each family’s unique situation and abilities and put the best interests of the child above all else,” he added. The Governor’s office said it received over 12,000 phone calls about the alimony reform bill.
The proposal would have ended permanent alimony and based the amount and duration of payments on a mathematical formula that would have applied in most cases. In 2013, Governor Scott vetoed a previous alimony reform bill, citing concerns that the law applied retroactively.
A number of states have reworked their spousal support laws in recent years, including New Jersey, South Carolina, and a few others. Reform advocates, who are nearly all men, consider permanent alimony to essentially be a financial penalty. They also object to the amount of discretion that judges have in determining the amount and duration of support payments.
On the other side, anti-reform advocates, who are nearly all women, counter that alimony is a legitimate part of the property division, and in many cases, a woman may have given up a larger share of another marital asset in exchange for alimony payments.
The underlying issue is really one of alimony’s purpose. Are these payments designed to permanently equalize the standard of living between the ex-spouse, or are they intended to provide financial assistance to needy spouses? The way in which one answers that question largely determines the person’s attitude toward alimony reform.
Although reform bills have now been shot down twice, the reformers vow that they will be back in the next session.
Spousal Support in Florida
Under current law, there are five forms of alimony in the Sunshine State, and a judge may award one or more of them.
- Temporary: Pendente lite (while the case is pending) alimony automatically ends when the divorce is final. These payments are designed to help a spouse pay rental property deposits, attorneys’ fees, and other immediate expenses.
- Bridge-The-Gap: This type of support lasts a maximum two years after the divorce is final. These payments are designed to help pay interim expenses, such as living expenses during a job search.
- Rehabilitative Alimony: To receive longer term payments, the recipient spouse must submit a detailed plan of action, such as going back to school.
- Durational: These lifestyle-equalizing payments are available if the recipient spouse’s income is insufficient to meet basic needs and capped at the length of the marriage.
- Permanent: The judge must state the reason(s) why the recipient spouse will never be self-supporting.
All these plans, except for bridge-the-gap alimony, can be modified on the motion of either spouse.
Partner with Experienced Attorneys
At Eighmie Law Firm, P.A., we understand the complex nature of Florida divorce and property division laws. For a free consultation with a seasoned family law attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact our office. After hours and offsite visits are available.