On Friday, Governor Ron DeSantis placed his signature on a legislation that is set to redefine alimony in the state of Florida. This decision arrived after a series of similar bills faced vetoes and after a decade of heightened debate over the topic. Here’s what you need to know:
The Core of the Matter: Permanent Alimony
The focal point of the bill (SB 1416) is the removal of what is termed as “permanent alimony.” Interestingly, DeSantis’ nod to this legislation came a year after he had previously vetoed a similar proposal that intended to scrap permanent alimony and introduce an alimony calculation based on the length of marriage.
Voices of Concern: The First Wives Advocacy Group
In response to the bill’s approval, the “First Wives Advocacy Group,” a group primarily comprised of older women on permanent alimony, voiced their apprehensions. Jan Killilea, founder of the group, expressed her profound disappointment, fearing it would lead to financial instability for many women.
The Long-Standing Debate
This push against permanent alimony is not a new debate. It has seen numerous emotional appeals from both sides. While some lament the endless payments stalling their retirement, others praise the new bill, like Michael Buhler, chairman of Florida Family Fairness, who believes the bill is a step forward for Florida families.
History of Veto and Support
Historically, Governor Rick Scott vetoed similar bills twice. The topic even led to heated confrontations outside his office in 2016. However, this year, the proposal saw a relatively smoother passage, gaining endorsements from influential bodies like Florida Family Fairness and The Florida Bar’s Family Law Section.
Details of the New Measure
- Permanent alimony is no more.
- A system is established for alimony payers who wish to adjust payments upon retirement.
- Judges now have criteria to consider before deciding on alimony adjustments.
- A significant highlight is the introduction of a five-year limit on “rehabilitative alimony.”
- The law specifies that relationships of less than three years won’t qualify for alimony.
- It introduces a clause allowing alimony payers to ask for modifications if their ex-spouses had “a supportive relationship” in the prior year.
Concerns and Fears
One primary concern echoing among many is the potential impact on existing permanent alimony agreements. The fear is that these reforms would retroactively affect many agreements, jeopardizing the financial stability of many individuals.
Camille Fiveash, a recipient of permanent alimony, stated, “He (DeSantis) has just impoverished all the older women of Florida.” In her statement, she highlighted the ramifications of these reforms and questioned the law’s ambiguity, especially when determining what constitutes “a supportive relationship.”
What Lies Ahead?
While the bill will come into effect soon, its long-term consequences remain to be seen. Advocates argue that the bill simply echoes current case law. Opponents, however, believe that it might leave many financially vulnerable.
The alimony reform in Florida signifies a major shift in the state’s family law. While it promises clarity and an end to endless alimony for some, it has also stirred apprehensions among many. Only time will reveal its full impact on the lives of Floridians.
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