One of the largest litigated topics in any divorce proceeding is an award of alimony. However, alimony is not only a highly contentious topic in divorce courts, but has also been significantly debated on the floor of the Florida Legislature. Although, alimony reform has yet to come to fruition, it is prudent to keep up to date with the possible changes that are being pushed in our Florida government and how it may affect you. Therefore, your Orlando Divorce Attorney has gathered the details regarding the many alimony reform initiatives that have passed through our government in the recent years.
Throughout the last 7 years, many bills concerning alimony reform have come before the Florida legislature and Governor. However, each bill has failed to come to fruition. 2013 is when the first bill regarding changes in the court’s treatment of alimony came before the legislature. This Senate Bill 718 was passed through the house and senate finding its way onto Governor Scott’s desk. The bill proposed specific guidelines for the calculation of alimony and removed permanent alimony awards and made the legislation retroactive to previous settlements. Scott vetoed this bill citing the retroactivity of the bill was not appropriate.
In 2015, another Senate Bill was introduced as SB 1248. Almost identical in legislation except for removal of the retroactivity effect of the bill. However, this bill died in the legislature in April 2015 because of the end of the legislative session.
In January of 2016, Lakeland Representative Colleen Burton proposed House Bill 455. A sister bill in the Senate, SB 688, was filed in February by Senator Kelli Stargel. Both bills passed through their subcommittees and passed on the senate floor. The bill was then presented to Governor Scott for review. The bill contained similar legislation to prior bills. They called for specific guidelines in calculating alimony and focusing on the length of the marriage and income only. However, they provided for deviations from these calculations upon written findings by the judge. Finally, it called for a termination of permanent alimony awards. However, this bill was also vetoed by Governor Rick Scott on April 15, 2016.
A fourth attempt to reform alimony was made in January 2017 with the introduction of the House Bill 283, again by Representative Colleen Burton. Although almost identical in nature to her previous bill, this one fleshed out specifics regarding calculating potential income, prohibiting modification of the duration of alimony awards, provided clarity as to nominal alimony, limited combined payments of alimony and child support to 55% of the payer’s income, defined supportive relationships that terminate alimony, provided specifics for those affected by retirement. A sister bill was filed in the Senate by Kathleen Passidomo, SB 412. Both bills were presented to committees, but failed to be placed on the committee agendas and died.
In 2019, Senator Gayle Harrel, filed senate bill 1596. This bill had some unique points to alimony reform such as changing the classifications of short term, moderate term, and long term marriages; require courts to prioritize bridge the gap alimony; and remove the standard of living established during the marriage as a factor for determining alimony. This bill did still remove permanent alimony, set a duration cap for alimony awards, retroactively affect past cases, and provide protections for retirement. A sister bill was filed in the House by Brad Drake, HB 1325; however, both bills died due to the end of legislative sessions.
Finally, during the most recent term, Alexander Andrade introduced House Bill 843. This bill eliminates permanent alimony, places priority for bridge the gap alimony, removes the consideration of adultery in an alimony award, limits rehabilitative alimony to 5 years, limits alimony awards to half the length of the marriage, and provide protections for a retiring spouse. A sister bill was introduced, Senate Bill 1832, by Kelli Stargel. However, both bills died once again.
Although these proposed bills regarding alimony reform have failed, the legislature does not seem to desire letting this topic fall flat. Therefore, if you are concerned about the possible reform initiatives, you may want to discuss the specifics of these bills with an educated Orlando Divorce Attorney for more information and how it may affect your alimony award.
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