Controversial, twice vetoed alimony reform bill rears its ugly head again

by | Mar 7, 2022

 


Over the last decade, an extremely controversial alimony reform bill passed by Florida lawmakers was shot down not once, but twice by then-Governor Rick Scott. Scott cited the fact that the proposed reform law would have been retroactive, with far-reaching ramifications for families and children who depend on alimony agreements for a measure of stability in their lives.

Scott’s vetos are still relevant today, because that same onerous, retroactive provision has surfaced again in yet another attempt to pass the same contentious bill. The 2022 legislation, thanks to the well-funded efforts of wealthy divorcees, and in some cases their new spouses, is cloaked as a measure centered around “the children.”

But as Scott pointed out back then, the constant push for so-called “alimony reform” is all about the pocketbook of divorcees dissatisfied with their existing, court adjudicated agreements. The children are a secondary consideration. The vast majority of supporters of the legislation were (or are) the primary earners in the existing divorce settlement, and they stand to gain financially through the renegotiation and curtailment of existing alimony payments.

Scott made it clear during both of those previous vetoes that he deliberated very carefully and was lobbied heavily by both sides. In the end, he says, he made his decisions on what he thought was in the best interests of Florida’s families. But Scott also isn’t a fan of destabilizing an existing legal framework that families and children have come to depend on.

Now, in the latest attempt to undermine the institution of marriage, at least State Senator Jason Pizzo, a Democrat, admirably attempted to make the latest bill more palatable by filing a simple, two-sentence amendment so that the alleged “reforms” would only apply to new alimony agreements after the bill goes into effect, rather than allowing tens of thousands of current divorce settlements to suddenly be challenged in court.

Sadly, his amendment was shot down by Republicans who are supposed to be the champions of traditional marriage and family values.

The bottom line for this latest attempt at so-called “alimony reform” is that this bill makes it more financially attractive for the primary earner in a family to walk away from their marital relationship. And it makes divorce a financially terrifying prospect for those that sacrifice their careers to take care of their children.

In most cases, those are women who make those sacrifices in the name of the very “family values” that Republicans claim to champion.

“They’re [supporters of retroactive alimony reform] not taking into consideration [an] older woman who has either given up their career or never had a career to start with and they’ve stayed at home and raised the children, supported their husbands as he advanced in his career and then she gets older and he wants to trade her in for a younger model,” said Barbara DeVane, in a story published in 2013, the first time this bad bill was nearly foisted upon tens of thousands of vulnerable families and children.

Even a cursory reading of the bill exposes its distasteful, anti-marriage bias. Among other things, the bill removes the court’s ability to consider adultery or marital infidelity in determining the alimony award amount. Republicans who think reform is the right thing to do because it’s more “fair” and “equitable” in the modern age are fooling themselves. If the bill passes, it simply will weaken the institution of marriage even further.

Florida lawmakers in the House of Representatives are scheduled to take up the bill on Tuesday. If it passes there, the only hope to defeat it would shift to Governor Ron DeSantis, who should follow the twice-previous example of Governor Rick Scott and send it to the political graveyard a third time.

5 Comments

  1. Kris

    I thought Florida is already a no fault state? Also, doesn’t the retroactivity only apply to court ordered settlements, not agreed upon non modifiable MSAs?

    Reply
  2. Michael Angelovic

    What an idiotic title to your article. “Ugly” head? It’s actually a very beautiful face to those of us who were burdened for lifetime alimony due to no fault of our own. If you are married more than 17 years and have lived in Florida at least 6 months while married, and your non-bread winner spouse cheats on you… or simply decides he/she doesn’t love you anymore… the breadwinner is on the hook for lifetime alimony.

    That has to stop. That’s what this bill does. It doesn’t eliminate alimony. It’s simply applies a standard or a formula for courts to follow with a length of marriage to length of alimony ratio. How is that ugly? How it that unfair?

    Please do you research next time.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      I agree with Michael. Really, right now, at seventeen years of marriage, the alimony receiving spouse can leave the other and be supported for the rest of their life. Lets say someone marries their college sweetheart at 21, they live together for 20 years and raise a few kids who are now in their late teens or even off to college. The alimony receiving partner, now 41 years old can tear apart that marriage and be supported for their remaining 40 years of life, twice the length of their marriage! How does that foster the institution of marriage? Sounds like an incentive to divorce to me! How does that encourage a person to move on and become a productive member of society? Under the new bill, the alimony receiving partner would be assisted for 15 years, until they are 56. Seems like that is time to develop a retirement plan or perhaps find someone else with whom to share life’s joys and sorrows. Yes, the bill applies to modifiable agreements and judgments. Each party understood that when divorced. There was an option to make the agreement non-,modifiable and this bill would not touch those agreements. This bill also seeks to add some measure of predictability so as to stop the litigation madness! These are salutary policies to be addressed.

      Whether addressing Due Process, Impairment of Contracts Clause, the Takings clause, or any other applicable standard, there is little to stop the application of this bill as proposed.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        Alimony is not fair, mainly hard working men who become rich paying for ex wives to not work for the rest of their lives. This is not the 30’s or 50’s. Women are very capable now of taking care of themselves. I agree if ex wives stayed home to take care of the family, they should be paid for a while until they can get on their feet, either by gaining employment or getting an education to be employable.

        Reply
        • "DY"

          Pass the bill you trump clone and don’t be like lex luger scott. It’s what is correct.you might get my vote chubby!

          Reply

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