Controversial alimony reform fight heads to DeSantis; but retroactivity clause could kill it a third time

by | Mar 11, 2022


For the third time in a decade, an alimony reform bill is headed to the Florida governor’s desk, and lobbyists and advocates for both sides will do all they can to sway Governor Ron DeSantis to their side.

At the heart of the controversy: the retroactive nature of the bill, which will fundamentally alter the legal landscape for thousands of Floridians currently living under a modifiable alimony agreement. Despite proponents of the bill claiming that it would not be retroactive, legal experts say that’s just plain false. By making the act applicable “to any action pending on or after July 1, 2022,” experts say the bill would in fact be retroactive and substantively affect thousands of current alimony awards, including those that were created by virtue of a bargained-for contract between two parties.

In short, anyone currently receiving alimony payments under a modifiable alimony agreement negotiated under the current law would be subject to the new rules under any new modifications to the agreement that take place if DeSantis decides to sign the bill. Future negotiations would be subject to the new “rules of the road,” which neither party anticipated when agreeing to the original terms, effectively changing the rules of the game for tens of thousands of families.

“The Family Law Section of The Florida Bar is respectfully asking Governor DeSantis to carefully review the policies in SB 1796 that will negatively impact Floridians – some of our state’s most vulnerable, including seniors and children – and ultimately veto these unwarranted changes to alimony and timesharing,” said Heather Apicella, Chair of The Family Law Section of The Florida Bar. “Proposed changes to alimony in this bill are retroactive and will affect existing and pending awards of alimony, impacting countless marital settlement agreements and final judgements.”

Reform advocates have attempted to argue the bill is not retroactive because non-modifiable alimony agreements remain so, and modifiable agreements are already modifiable, and the law doesn’t change that.

SB 1796 would modernize Florida’s alimony law, by making the process more equitable and predictable for all parties while also reducing the cost of litigation,” said Marc Johnson, from Florida Family Fairness. “This bill also protects children and allows both parties to retire with dignity, while giving the courts discretion to protect vulnerable alimony recipients.”

However, family law experts say that altering the legal landscape governing future alimony agreements and making those alterations applicable to existing agreements made under the previous rules is effectively changing the rules of the game and thus “retroactive.”

“This sets a dangerous precedent for contractual agreements in Florida, and we are deeply concerned that this public policy erases equitability and sets up a system that heavily favors one party, while damaging the other unnecessarily. It will also result in prolonged litigation, drive the cost of divorce up and cause backlogs in an already overburdened family court system.”

On two previous occasions, Governor Rick Scott has vetoed extremely similar bills, once in 2013 and again in 2016. In his veto message he specifically called out the unfair nature of the retroactive nature of the proposed reforms.

26 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Only 6 states still allow permanent periodic alimony.
    It’s inherently unfair and should be abolished.
    The proposed reform is reasonable and well thought out.
    Governor DeSantis should sign it.

    Reply
    • Frederick Douglass

      “Family” “law” makes more money for the guild (the Bar) than all other areas of billable hours COMBINED. For over 10 years the guild has bought off chairman after chairman of House and Senate committees in order to maintain their immoral billable hours under the current ‘system’. There are NO laws under the current system because when one is facing a perpetual, life-long sentence of indentured servitude to a former spouse, resentment and loss of freedom will drive any common-sense person to litigate, or leave, or kill themselves, or kill their family, or kill their family and the attorneys. Cases of exactly this abound.

      Google Tom Ball of Manchester, New Hampshire – self-immolation. Google Andrew Fogel, 56, and Rebecca Fogel, 22 – both died due to the Bar and his parasitic ex-wife. Google 52-year-old Richard K. McCrocklin of Eustis – who, facing a lifetime of indentured servitude and loss of all he worked for going to ‘lawyers’ fees, drove into Tampa bay to kill himself. His wife’s attorneys were using “the law” to extort him too.

      Or take a look at the THOUSANDS of pages in the continuing 2018 divorce of Mark L. Kinchla – being driven to bankruptcy, into stage 4 cancer from the stress, after being set upon by a vindictive ex wife and cunning, unscrupulous attorneys intent on stealing everything he’d built…

      It goes on and on and on. Ms. Devane’s hollow arguments, a NOW representative, are transparently hypocritical – if women are independent, how can she argue they require men’s “support” (servitude)? How’s that an “equal” right?

      The ONLY reason this common-sense reform is making press right now is because the Bar stands to lose their LARGEST LITIGATION MONEY MAKER. Period. And because the Family Law Section’s political payoffs failed this time….so far.

      Sign it and prove to Florida voters that you work for them and not your fellow Guild members Governor DeSantis.

      Frederick Douglass
      Frederick.douglass@legalshame.co

      Also read A. Looking’s excellent compilation of FACTS lawyers will NEVER share in his book: “Alimony Rescue”.

      Reply
    • Maureen

      47 of States have permanent alimony. Do your homework.

      Reply
      • Nevada Bedwell

        Absolutely not true. This is a family law member thug

        Reply
  2. Not a lobbyist. Just a lifetime alimony slave.

    Suck it up you legal leaches. Your time has come. Find another gravy train legal avenue to exploit. Florida has finally moved into the 21st Century.

    Sign this into law, Governor. Show guts and grit, which were severely lacking during the awful Rick Scott regime.

    Reply
  3. Anonymous

    This anti woman venomous bill attacks current recipients of alimony. Many agreements were not court ordered. Both parties through mediation gave up certain things. Spouses walked away from businesses property and retirement accounts and accepted permanent alimony payments in-lieu of equitable cash settlements. You can see by the name calling and nasty comments around certain sites the hatred that went in to this bill. Please veto this awful bill Governor Desantis. It is most certainly retroactive.

    Reply
    • Gerry Hill

      I’ve been paying Alimony since I was 40 years old and now I’m fighting cancer still paying at 62 years old. My ex-wife was 39 years old and told me to my face “ I will never work a day in the remainder of my life”. She is 61 now living with another man and still get alimony from me as well. I was not able to put money away for retirement and now living off disability which ends at 65. I will only have SS at point and with medical bills I’m not sure how I will live?

      Does this sound fair? I also paid for both kids college and other cost such as health insurance, automobiles, car insurance ect….which I never had regret especially since they dis-owned there mother because they could never respect her for never making an effort to provide for herself.

      Reply
      • Cynthia Swanson

        I’m sorry for your kids that they apparently have a poor relationship with their mother, and ever sorrier that you are glad about that. I’m also sorry to hear about your medical problems. But, in reality, you can file now to modify your alimony because of your medical problems, reduction in income, if your ex is living in a financially supportive relationship (that is, if the man she is living with is helping to support her), and so on. If you haven’t done that, that’s on you. This new law will not automatically change that in any way beneficial to you. But it will impact young children and older parents, who did not follow up on their own career oppotunities to stay home and take care of children.Taxpayers like you and me may have to end up supporting those parents in their later years under the bill’s scenario. Best wishes on your fight with cancer.

        Reply
      • Anonymous

        If your ex wife is in a supportive relationship, as you say living with another man, then the law already allows you to modify. Additionally, all the factors you laid out also allow modification. As a Florida divorce lawyer, I am telling you this is on you. And if your agreement says non-modifiable then blame your lawyer. I never let my clients agree to non-modifiable.

        Reply
        • Anonymous

          Your a complete idiot, its almost impossible to get any modifications in Florida and you know that. Florida bar thug alert

          Reply
        • Snydley whiplash

          You are so full of it. If a man is so overburdened he can hardly live howling the world do you self serving ignorant uses expect him to file???? Tell ya be oh brilliant one. Where does he come up with the 15k it cost to do duck a thing?? You’ve never done it so you do t know. Keep your mouth shut until you know how it is fir this poor unfortunate man with cancer. This crap is unfair to all except the recipients of feee money. Your love just wasn’t that good and you weee the reason you got divorced. You and him. Not just him.

          Reply
      • Pk

        Totally agree, governor should sign the bill and end this unfair permanent alimony

        Reply
    • Anonymous

      Anti woman? What century are you living in?
      Women have been working and earning for a very long time now.
      But this barbaric alimony structure still exists – a carryover from the bad old days when “a woman’s place was in the home”.
      Many women now PAY alimony.
      Many divorced people in FLA make awful life decisions based upon receiving lifetime alimony.
      This is the only debt which, if unpaid, can result in jail time without a trial!
      To alter PPA (even after paying for years longer than the marriage, and/or when approaching retirement age) requires a lawsuit (cost est @ $12,000) and a judge who will address whether or not the recipient NEEDS the money.
      Family Law attorneys tell people that PPA isn’t really permanent – because the other party will probably remarry.
      This is a dirty little secret in that profession. The stats show that someone who is paid to NOT remarry usually doesn’t.

      Reply
      • Cynthia Stump Swanson

        Actual studies and data (not just your personal experience) show across the board: First, men were more vulnerable to short-term consequences of divorce for subjective measures of well-being, but postdivorce adaptation alleviated gender differences in these outcomes. Second, a medium-term view on multiple outcomes showed more similarity than differences between women and men. The medium-term consequences of divorce were similar in terms of subjective economic well-being; mental health, physical health, and psychological well-being; residential moves, homeownership, and satisfaction with housework; and chances of repartnering, social integration with friends and relatives, and feelings of loneliness. Third, the key domain in which large and persistent gender differences emerged were women’s disproportionate losses in household income and associated increases in their risk of poverty and single parenting. Taken together, these findings suggest that men’s disproportionate strain of divorce is transient, whereas women’s is chronic.

        Reply
      • Cynthia Swanson

        Women earn approximately 80% of what men earn. By far the majority of stay at home parents are women. Women lose more career opportunities because they stay at home to care for children. If women refuse to stay home to care for children because of the damage to their career and earning prospects, will men step in to be stay at home parents? Or will the children grow up with others doing the main parenting jobs? Is that what you’re looking for?

        Reply
        • Anonymous

          Women DO NOT earn 80 percent of men. Please spare me , no one believes those lies anymore.

          Reply
        • Anonymous

          That’s because you do less than 70% if the work in 90% of the professions

          Reply
    • Anonymous

      There are many of us that have also split their assets 50/50 (property, liquid assets and 401k) and are still paying their spouse lifetime alimony because it’s not an option in Florida to pay anything less. Any individual’s situation is not the argument hear. It’s about what is fair and equitable.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        Oh come on , we don’t want mention all that. Just be a good slave or we will feed you to the dogs out front.

        Reply
  4. Peter Bracket

    At 84 and paying alimony over 21 years with no end in sight and an insurance policy costing 1150$per month with no ending in sight. Being retired this is a reason for the governor DeSantis to approve the alimony bill into law

    Reply
  5. Michel (Michael) Buhler

    Alimony should always be “marriage unemployment insurance”; for a limited time and amount to help the lesser-earning spouse to become self sufficient. For alimony recipients, these generally received 50% (or more) of the assets build over the course of the marriage and qualify for social security benefits at 50% of the higher-earning spouse’s benefits level. Moreover, if a settlement agreement is modifiable, it was always open to being changed based on retirement of the payor; what SB 1796 does is provide the guidelines for new alimony awards (max amount and time period based on length of marriage) as well as a process for retirement that allows vulnerable recipients to contest a four-year ramp down of alimony (25% per year when the payor reaches 65) on the basis of not being able to provide the needs/necessities of life then judicial discretion is provided for. Also, if a payor agreed to pay more alimony in return for more than 50% of the marital assets and the MSA was therefore non-modifiable, the terms of the MSA apply and can’t be altered by this bill. The real winners with this bill are all Floridian families with the misfortune of having been (or going to be divorced), as the main structural problem of today’s laws – two divorcing couples are placed into an adversarial court led by two divorce attorneys with every financial incentive to escalate fighting to generate fees – are addressed by establishing guidelines. The losers, the people who are fighting hardest and spending thousands to preserve their business model; divorce lawyers.

    Reply
  6. John Foster

    I thought I had the right to retire. Florida is a no fault state which means your spouse may without cause leave you with handsome payouts! 50%+ assert distribution, permanent alimony if married 20 years, their social security, a portion of your social security, their income, their income from savings etc. and at age 70 I’m still paying alimony. This bill makes sense and protects everyone except maybe the attorneys. The bill provides for durational and rehabilitative alimony if needed. Interestingly look at all the divorce causes that occur at the 20 year timeframe. I hope Governor DeSantis signs this bill into legislation because it is clearly the right thing to do. Just benchmark other states and you will see how archaic Florida alimony law is.

    Reply
  7. Anonymous

    From what I’m understanding not everybody paying alimony is rich not everybody paying alimony has lots of money and I don’t believe in permanent alimony transitional alimony I can understand but how is the person that makes $60,000 a year that pays alimony ever going to retire they never will because they can’t even somebody making $100,000 a year is not gonna be able to afford to retire not everyone is rich

    Reply
  8. Nevada Bedwell

    Your article is complete fake news. Do you know how many veterans in the state of Florida kill them selves every year because of ridiculous alimony laws in Florida.
    Happens all the time. Soldier comes home from the wars in iraq etc , most with multiple combat tours. Spouse decides to much for them. They divorce, the Florida courts automatically give 1/2 of any type disability pay/ retirement pay to spouse. Then they give life time alimony on top that. Some are ordered to pay more than actually make. Some even 125percent of what they make. I know it almost happened to me. I made a choice after combat tours and the way the “ family court” in lee county tried to get me to kill myself. It almost worked. I made the choice to sell off what little I had and not only leave the state but I left the country. Over 20 years of service down the drain because people like you write to defend the Florida family bar.
    You should do some homework before you write unless your just another paid off family bar thug. The ONLY reason the bar does not want this to end is litigation fees. If you actually really knew the truth you would not write fake news like this.
    Few stats for you.
    The Florida family bar brings in more money than all the other forms of law combined ! Its insane.
    The state of Florida receives in grant money from the federal government almost 5 dollars for every 1 dollar of alimony collected in the state. Where does this money go ? Directly into the judicial coffers !
    You see a long time ago child support in the state was not being paid. The federal government started a program to entice states to enforce child support. The Florida bar thugs got it changed so they collect for alimony to. Hard to believe I understand but its true if you care to research it.
    What is the only state in the united states that allows a person to be incarcerated for life for unpaid alimony ? Florida
    It gets worse. Only state in the country in which you can be incarcerated indefinitely for not paying Florida bar members attorney fees ? Yup Florida
    Do some homework before you write hit jobs like this. Either your lazy or your just another free loading liberal.
    Thanks
    Nevada Bedwell
    MAJ US ARMY RETIRED
    “ I prayed for freedom but freedom did not come until I prayed with my legs”
    “ freedom is not FREE”

    I apologize for misspelling and grammar, my mind is not what it used to be unfortunately.
    Least I am no longer a slave being held by the plantation owners “ Judge Hays lee county
    Judge Swift Lee county “
    Those plantation owners are sol when it comes to this slave. I left the country and enjoying life.

    Sent from my iPhone

    Reply
  9. rick snyderman

    14 years ago I was served first with divorce papers by my now ex-wife… Yes… our marriage had grown apart and I accepted the reality that it was going to be time to move on. I was never unfaithful…. I knew my divorce was going to be a bit messy. My kids came first… I never questioned the child sharing/child support guidelines at that time. Yes… I knew I would then I would be facing permanent alimony under Florida’s archaic divorce laws..Never thinking that my ex would basically never go out on dates or try to move on with her life since she got the “golden ticket “… permanent alimony. During the divorce process she never offered any negotiation… split everything down the middle…my 401 k. A half interest in my business at that time… the house (since law basically said she could maintain her lifestyle). That meant that my alimony was based on all that… also she only worked 40 hours a month to maintain health insurance as she is a well paid RN. So every month forever she gets $3500. Fast forward to today…. All these years later she has since sold the house during a very “up market “ now lives in a nice condo 60-70% less value and cost. As soon as our divorce was final she started working full-time…(my alimony supporting her as if she was only working the 40 hour month). In 14 years she has purchased 4 cars. A boat. Vacationed well. Bottom line here…she has had more than enough time to move on … but won’t give up her 3500$ a month golden ticket. The current law is unfair! Also… my social security check at retirement is projected to be the same amount as my current alimony! My savings account has the same amount of money in it now, and as it was 14 years ago. Time to change the rules…. My ex has been earning more than she ever has. Ending permanent alimony is the way to go… I have paid my dues and my ex has certainly taken advantage of the archaic permanent alimony law.

    Reply
  10. Dinny

    These parasitic women need to go get a job and support themselves. The fact that they still expect and demand a free ride for life sickens me.

    Reply

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