The Push Towards Alimony Reform in Florida Halted by Veto

A recent alimony reform bill has been vetoed for a second time by Governor Rick Scott.

In recent years, Florida legislators have continuously attempted to overhaul the state’s alimony laws. Time and again, those efforts have been thwarted. Indeed, Florida Gov. Rick Scott vetoed an attempt at Florida alimony reform in 2013. Three years later, Gov. Scott once again vetoed a controversial push toward alimony reform.

Latest Alimony Reform Push

In November of 2015, Florida’s Civil Justice Subcommittee went ahead with HB 455. This proposal was Florida’s latest attempt at overhauling the state’s alimony structure. The stated goal of HB 455 was to create a predictable and uniform outcome for alimony determinations in the state.

The bill passed along party lines, and it was slated to take effect on October 1, 2016. One of the bill’s many far-reaching consequences that would have put an end to permanent alimony in the state. Points of contention like these are what has led to alimony being a hotly contested debate in the Florida legislature. And, while this bill was the third attempt to change the state’s alimony laws in recent years, those in favor of reform remained hopeful that the bill would finally be passed into law.

That is, until, detractors of the bill ended up coming out on the winning side of the argument once again. Critics of alimony reform suggested that the bill would have resulted in retroactive alimony modifications and the use of a preset alimony formula that are fundamentally flawed. Or, in the words of retired judge Robert Evans of Orlando, the bill had “fundamental flaws that are going to hurt real people.”

Count Gov. Rick Scott as another Florida politician who agreed with the sentiments of Mr. Evans. However, as a Florida governor, Mr. Scott also has veto power. As mentioned, he vetoed a similar alimony bill in 2013, disagreeing with the bill on the basis that Florida law already allows alimony adjustments under proper and necessary circumstances. Current Florida alimony laws already ensure that spouses who prioritize family over a career are not punished for making such selfless decisions. The alimony changes, then, would have been a welcome change to wealthy spouses and so-called “breadwinners”, but lesser earning spouses would have received the bill less favorably.

Gov. Rick Scott put the debate to rest for at least a while longer when he vetoed the latest alimony reform bill in April of 2016. This time, Scott indicated the bill was vetoed because the alimony bill also mandated that judges must start with a presumption of equal time-sharing in child custody disputes. According to Scott, he was concerned that this provision would put the desires of the parents over the best interests of the child.

With that reasoning, the latest push for alimony reform was thwarted by language that had little to do with alimony. For this reason, it is reasonable to expect a new bill in the coming months that will reintroduce alimony reform without the equal time-sharing language. In the meantime, Florida’s alimony laws remain unchanged.

If you have any questions related to Florida Alimony, or require legal assistance in other areas of Family Law, you may always contact Damien McKinney of The McKinney Law Group to discuss your case further. He can be reached by phone at 813-428-3400 or by e-mail at [email protected].