DeSantis drops veto hammer on controversial alimony bill

by | Jun 25, 2022

 

TALLAHASSEE — Acting on one of the most emotionally charged issues of the 2022 legislative session, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday vetoed a measure that would have overhauled the state’s alimony laws.

DeSantis’ veto marked the third time that supporters of changing the alimony system have successfully shepherded bills through the Legislature only to have them nixed. Former Gov. Rick Scott twice vetoed such legislation, with a standoff over the issue leading to a near-fracas outside Scott’s office in 2016.

The bill this year, in part, would have done away with permanent alimony and set up maximum payments based on the duration of marriage. As in the past, the measure drew emotional debate during the legislative session that ended in March.

One of the most-controversial parts of the bill (SB 1796) would have changed the process for modification of alimony when people who have been paying seek to retire. Critics argued the proposal threatened to impoverish older ex-spouses who have been homemakers and depend on the payments.

DeSantis’ veto letter Friday pointed to concerns about the bill allowing ex-spouses to have existing alimony agreements amended.

“If CS/CS/SB 1796 were to become law and be given retroactive effect as the Legislature intends, it would unconstitutionally impair vested rights under certain preexisting marital settlement agreements,” the governor wrote.

Many ex-spouses who appeared before legislative committees to speak against the bill said they agreed to give up assets at the time of their divorces in exchange for permanent alimony awards.

But proponents of the overhaul argued the bill would “modernize” Florida’s alimony laws by making the process more equitable and predictable for divorcing families.

“We are incredibly disappointed by the veto of this much needed bill. Today, Gov. DeSantis chose divorce lawyers over Florida’s families and parents who love their children and who want to be a part of their lives,” Marc Johnson, a Tampa lawyer who is president of the pro-overhaul group Florida Family Fairness, said in a prepared statement.

Under the measure, people married for less than three years would not have been eligible for alimony payments, and those who had been married 20 years or longer would have been eligible to receive payments for up to 75 percent of the terms of the marriage.

Another part of the bill would have required judges to begin with a “presumption” that children should split their time equally between parents. Scott largely pinned his 2016 veto of an alimony bill on a similar child-sharing provision.

The Family Law Section of The Florida Bar, which lobbied against the bill, thanked the governor “for understanding the bad precedent the retroactivity” of the measure would have established.

“If signed into law, this legislation would have upended thousands upon thousands of settlements, backlogging the courts and throwing many Floridians’ lives into turmoil,” the statement, attributed to the section’s chairman, Philip Wartenberg, and immediate past chairwoman, Heather Apicella, said.

People and organizations on both sides of the issue heavily lobbied DeSantis’ office.

The “First Wives Advocacy” group tweeted Friday that it had delivered a petition to DeSantis with more than 2,000 signatures asking for a veto.

As of Friday, the governor’s office had received 5,939 emails in support of the bill and 1,250 in opposition, along with 349 phone calls in favor and 289 against the measure.

When asked for a tally of phone calls and emails about the bill, DeSantis’ office also provided excerpts from messages pleading with the governor for a veto.

A message from Felice Schulaner argued that the alimony changes would primarily hurt women and families.

“The likely consequences are that women will largely be the most impacted, particularly women who divorced after long marriages where they might have put their careers on hold to support their now ex-husbands. How many women will be forced into poverty? How many women will lose their homes?” part of Schulaner’s message said. “I get that your rich male friends might want to divorce their wives for a new model, but the injustice of this is extraordinary.”

In another message, Murielle Fournier wrote that she made an “amicable global settlement” with her ex-husband “in good faith.” Under the agreement, her ex-husband isn’t allowed to modify his payments.

“It’s a contract that I made under the current law. I work and have to rent a room because I can’t afford to rent my own place. I don’t own a home, no retirement plan. No nest egg. This bill will devastate me financially,” she wrote.

7 Comments

  1. Deborah Coffey

    Looking at all the bills he did sign over the past year, it is obvious that DeSantis has no sense of fairness or equity at all. Hopefully the women of Florida will send him packing in November!

    Reply
  2. Andrea Rugland

    Great job, Gov. DeSantis, of doing the right thing! Please keep it up! Thank you!

    Reply
  3. Sooth Sayer

    our next president

    Reply
  4. cigar viking

    in this day and age why are women getting alimony? Where is all the woman’s libsters fighting the patriarchy of men having to pay to take care of women who can’t succeed on their own?

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      Women have spent much of their lives caring for children, raising families. Social security does not recognize the value of that work and they do not receive big Social Security checks like their long time employed at a better salary husband.

      Reply
  5. Cynthia P.

    I have personally helped four women with children go through their divorces as an unpaid paralegal friend. I can only give their point of view. The husband told them to give up their lives to give birth and raise the children. He would pay all the bills. These four men did exceptionally well at earning. The mothers were fantastic. I would never get involved unless I knew the facts and trusted these women. Some I sadly had to decline because those women were permiscuous or unstable in other ways. In these four cases, the woman was left with no money in the bank. The husband withdrew everything. He would also max out all the credit cards. All of this was spiteful. Yet the family courts never took this into consideration. Even one of the men leaving the state for another job that paid $500K, he bought a new house and left her with the house that was $80K underwater, no short sale offers. These women are left with no money to house or feed their kids until AFTER the divorce is finalized. This actually happens quite often to women. The state determines what is fair. And that amount is poverty level child support and basic subsistance. It’s not enough at all especially for the sacrifices the wife gave. If you plan on being with a financially successful man, I strongly suggest you know all your state rights before you marry. Don’t fall for the lines they tell you. Don’t marry, don’t have kids with him and move on to someone else. These four women’s lives are destroyed forever.

    Reply
  6. Escondido

    No-fault divorce is a total fraud. The divorce assumes “the purpose of the marriage” is ended. Then the courts say, well, the purpose of the marriage which is for the man to support the wife will not end.

    I suppose there are marriages where the man and woman agree he will work and she will take care of the house and kids. But, most couples I know the woman decided she didn’t want to work so she quit her job. He had no say in the matter.

    We have seen cases where the man becomes incredibly wealthy, such as the Beatles; or oil billionaires. The wife ran around to beauty shops and shopping all day, and when they divorce, she is assumed to have earned half of that wealth, though the divorce settlement shows she is incapable of supporting herself. This is fraud.

    Justice says if you take her out of the slums, when she bails on the marriage she goes back to the slums.

    Actually, as a result of such laws, marriage has gone away. It was this way in the Roman Empire, too. And, for the same reason that is where we are headed.

    Fault divorce is different. If the man messes up, he should pay. Currently, if she messes up, she gets the house; the kids; the car; child support; property settlement; and alimony and he gets the shaft. This isn’t just wrong; It is evil.

    Reply

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