Florida alimony bill vetoed, but will be introduced again next year

When a marriage ends, sometimes the higher earning partner has to makes payments to the lower earning partner over a certain period of time. In Florida, the current system of spousal support - or, as it is sometimes called, alimony - has been hotly debated by lawmakers. An alimony reform bill that was passed by the Florida legislature would have significantly modified practices in awarding spousal support. However, it recently succumbed to the governor's veto.

Vetoed bill would have put limits on amount, duration of spousal support

Divorcing couples who reach an acceptable settlement agreement can work out any spousal support terms among themselves with the help of their lawyers. If a settlement agreement cannot be reached, spousal support is set by a Florida judge. Under the current system, judges have a great deal of discretion in awarding spousal support - too much, according to many Florida lawmakers and alimony reform advocates.

Although Florida has a no-fault divorce law, many feel like alimony has been being wrongly used by judges to punish what they see as reprehensible conduct in the marriage or divorce. Furthermore, alimony awards that extend over a long period of time including lifetime alimony force many payers into delaying retirement or foregoing retirement completely.

The Florida bill sought to correct some of these perceived problems. It would have ended permanent spousal support, limiting any ongoing alimony awards to a maximum of half the length of the marriage (for example, in a marriage that lasted 20 years, spousal support could be awarded for a maximum of 10 years). The bill would have made it easier to alter alimony payments due to changed circumstances, like the financial situation of the recipient or the payer reaching retirement age. And, it would have placed limits on the amount of alimony based on the length of the marriage and the gross income of the payer.

The bill passed with strong support on a vote of 85-31 in the Florida House and 29-11 in the Florida Senate. Governor Rick Scott saw a few problems with the measure, however.

For one thing, the governor was concerned that the law would apply retroactively and affect alimony agreements that had been settled years ago. Governor Scott also cited concerns about a provision in the bill that would have established a presumption granting parents equal custody of children following the divorce unless extraordinary circumstances warranted some other custody arrangement.

Alimony reform will be back in 2014, so contact a Florida attorney about your divorce today

Critics of the alimony reform bill applauded the veto. Some family rights groups believed the measure would have had a detrimental impact on Florida families and divorced women in particular.

But, spousal support reform is not likely to be off the table for long in the Sunshine State. As of September, 2013, lawmakers are working to rewrite the alimony reform bill and address the concerns that brought the governor's veto. It will be reintroduced in the 2014 legislative session, and given the strong support it enjoyed in the Florida House and Senate the first time around, it is likely to again make it to the governor's desk.

If you are facing divorce and wondering how spousal support will be determined in your case, a Florida family law attorney can help. By contacting an attorney today, you can get ahead of the game and plan for the effects of a possible legislative change to spousal support.