Florida’s legislative session has drawn to a close without any significant reform to alimony laws. There were proposals to make significant changes to how alimony is awarded in divorce cases but they died in committee.
Republican Sen. Gayle Harrell filed SB 1596 on March 1st, hoping to create a fair and balanced approach at determining how much and how long alimony should be awarded to recipients.
HB 1325 was filed by Republican Rep. Brad Drake, echoing alimony reform efforts and addressing equal time-sharing for minor children.
During a phone interview with Sen. Harrell on Friday, she says time expired on bringing the Bill to a vote before the end of the 2019 session. The Bill was being reviewed by three committees; Judiciary, Children, Families, and Elder Affairs, and Rules, prior to its demise. Harrell says, “It’s essentially dead… We will be meeting and listening to people over the summer and crafting a new Bill that is fair for all parties.” Harrell will introduce her Bill in the fall without language that addresses child support or custody issues.
The argument historically runs along these lines: The former spouses who write the checks say permanent alimony, or “forever alimony,” isn’t fair to them. Their exes counter that they shouldn’t be penalized, for example, after staying home for years to raise children only to find difficulty, if not impossibility, in re-entering the workplace.
In 2016, reform advocates shouted down opponents of that year’s bill in the hall outside and lobby of what was then Gov. Rick Scott’s Capitol office.
Indeed, family-law related bills had trouble getting Scott’s signature even as lawmakers tried for years to change the way Florida’s courts award alimony.
Scott had vetoed another attempt in 2013 because he called it retroactive and so it “tamper(ed) with the settled economic expectations of many Floridians who have experienced divorce.”
Among other things, Harrell’s measure requires someone “seeking alimony (to) prove by clear and convincing evidence that the (ex-spouse) has the ability to pay alimony,” and that person “has the burden of proof of demonstrating a need for alimony.”
We’ll see what 2020 brings.