Ron DeSantis on Friday signed into law a measure that would overhaul the state’s alimony laws, after three vetoes on similar bills and a decade of emotional clashes over the issue.
measure (SB 1416) includes the abolition of what is known as permanent alimony. DeSantis’ approval came a year after he scrapped a similar bill that sought to eliminate permanent alimony and formulate alimony amounts based on the length of the marriage.
The approval prompted an outcry from members of the First Wives Advocacy Group, a coalition made up mostly of older women who receive permanent alimony and say their lives would be turned upside down without the payments.
“On behalf of the thousands of women our group represents, we are very disappointed with the governor’s decision to sign the Alimony Reform Bill. We believe that by signing it, he has placed elderly women in a position that will lead to financial ruin.” said Jan Killilea, a woman from Bucca “The so-called ‘family values’ party has just contributed to the erosion of the institution of marriage in Florida,” Raton, 63, who founded the group a decade ago, told The News Service of Florida in a text message Friday.
The years-long effort to get rid of perpetual alimony has been a highly controversial issue. It prompted tearful testimony from members of the First Wives group. But it also prompted emotional pleas from ex-spouses who said they were forced to work long past the age at which they wanted to retire because they were on the hook for alimony payments.
Michael Buehler, president of Florida Family Finance, the group that has pushed for repeal of perpetual alimony, applauded the bill’s passage.
“Florida Family Equity is pleased that the Florida legislature and Florida Governor DeSantis have passed a bill ending perpetual alimony and codifying into law the retirement right for current alimony payers,” Buehler said in a statement. “Anything that adds clarity and ends perpetual expense” is a win for Florida families.
Besides DeSantis’ veto of the 2022 version, former governor Rick Scott has twice vetoed similar bills. The issue sparked a near-squabble outside Scott’s office in 2016.
However, this year, the proposal received relatively little public opposition and received the blessing of Florida Family Justice and the Family Law Division of the Florida Bar, which have clashed fiercely over the issue in the past.
Along with eliminating permanent alimony, the measure would create a process for former spouses making alimony payments to seek modifications to their alimony agreements when they want to retire.
It would allow judges to reduce or terminate alimony, support or alimony payments after considering a number of factors, such as the “age and health” of the person making the payment; the customary retirement age for that person’s occupation; the “economic impact” that a reduction in maintenance might have on recipients of payments; and “motivation to retire and prospect of return to work” for the person making the payment.
Supporters said he would codify the court’s decision in the 1992 divorce case into law, which judges use as a guideline when making retirement decisions.
But as with previous versions, opponents remained concerned that the bill would apply to existing permanent maintenance agreements, which many ex-spouses accept in exchange for giving up other assets as part of divorce settlements.
“He (DeSantis) has impoverished all the older women in Florida, and I know at least 3,000 women across the state of Florida are converting to Democrats and we will campaign against him, all the way, forever.” The Republican, who gets permanent alimony, said in a phone interview Friday.
In vetoing the 2022 version, DeSantis cited concerns about the bill that would allow ex-spouses to modify existing maintenance agreements.
In a June 24, 2022 veto letter, he wrote that if the bill “becomes law and is given retroactive effect as the legislature intends, it would unconstitutionally impair rights acquired under certain pre-existing marital settlement agreements.”
But Senate bill sponsor Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, tried to reassure lawmakers that the 2023 version would not unconstitutionally affect existing alimony settlements. Referring to the court ruling, Gruters told a Senate committee in April that this year’s motion “went into what is currently case law.”
“So, what you can do now, by case law, is we now codify all those laws and make it the rule of law. So we’re basically enshrining that. So from a retroactive standpoint, no, because if there’s anything that can be amended from “Before, it is still modifiable. If an agreement is not modifiable, you can still modify that agreement.”
The bill, which will go into effect on Saturday, would also set a five-year cap for what is known as qualifying alimony. Under the plan, people who have been married for less than three years will not be eligible for alimony payments, and those who have been married for 20 years or more will be eligible for payments for up to 75% of the duration of the marriage.
The new law would also allow alimony payers to seek adjustments if they “existed or existed in a supportive relationship” involving their ex-spouses in the previous year. Critics have argued that the provision is vague and could apply to temporary housemates who help an alimony recipient cover living expenses for short periods of time.
Viviash, who is 63 and has serious medical conditions, said she could not afford another legal battle over alimony.
“My fears are that they’ll take you back to court, and I don’t have the money to hire a lawyer. I literally live off what little I get for alimony. I work part-time, because I suffer from all kinds of illnesses. And now I’ll be left with nothing, absolutely nothing,” she said. “.
Vivash added that health insurance “would likely be the first thing to get rid of” if her payments were cut or eliminated.
“This is a death sentence for me,” she said.