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.