The “Alimony Reform Bill” was passed by the Florida legislature in the beginning of March 2016 ending permanent alimony in Florida and drastically changing the law as it relates to the custody of children during a divorce or paternity action. Furthermore, it will end alimony at the age of retirement of the payer, creating problems for many alimony recipients presently receiving alimony. The proponents of the bill deny retroactivity, however if a case is brought back to the court for a modification of the payments, the new law will apply, so in effect it will be retroactive. This will cause many women to be financially affected to their detriment as men account for 97% of alimony payers based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The bill that was passed has been before Governor Scott previously. He vetoed it in 2013 for the stated reason of retroactivity and because it was prior to an election year. Governor Scott will not be running for Governor of Florida again, so will he ignore the bill, creating devastating effects on the women of Florida, all because he no longer needs our vote? If Governor Scott fails to act, it is a loud and clear sign that he no longer cares about the female vote.
Most divorces where alimony is awarded on a permanent basis involve long term marriages where the Husband was the primary breadwinner of the family and the wife either never had a career or put her career on hold for the benefit of the family as a whole. These are of course agreements the parties made together while married, and now that the case is in divorce court, the Husband does not feel the need to continue financial support of his wife, despite her inability to earn at his same level and her sacrifices and contribution to the marriage. Once in divorce proceedings, men conveniently forget how those contributions led to the Husband’s overall financial success. The current law provides for women in these circumstances and compensates their efforts to the marriage and raising of children through alimony.
Senate Bill 668 proposes to create a formula for alimony that fails to consider the wife’s needs, it is only based upon length of marriage, incomes of both parties, and whether the wife works or not. The court will now impute income to the wife, so the alimony will not be based on actual income, but a presupposition that the wife will not only be able to get employment, but with an arbitrary income amount.
The worst part of what the Florida Legislators have done is they are not being truthful with the contents of the bill. Though the bill “proposes” to even the playing field on alimony and will not be retroactive, that is false. This bill will absolutely be applied retroactively to women currently receiving permanent alimony. Proponents who deny that, either do not understand the law and litigation or are lying. Secondly, it drastically affects the legal burden in regards to time-sharing (custody) determinations of children. The law creates a “premise” of a 50/50 time sharing arrangement with the children that the court “shall” follow. This language is going to create years of litigation for families before the Florida Supreme Court interprets how to apply this language that appears to violate the separation of powers of the judiciary and legislative branch. It is within the courts province to instruct what the court shall do, not the legislature, especially when they are basing it on a premise, rather than a presumption. This bill will increase litigation and costs to the families of Florida.
The proponents of this bill have not been forthright in the implications this will have across the state of Florida and the financial impact on women and children. In fact, many have urged the Governor to appoint a task force to study the financial impact of such a bill on the women and children of Florida, to date no financial studies have been conducted, rather we are looking at a law based upon one man’s experience during a divorce and his desire to change his circumstances, without regard for the impact on the women and children of Florida.
All opponents of the is bill are encouraged to contact Florida Women’s Law Group for information on how to contact Governor Scott to veto SB 668.