A few days before the latest alimony bill could become law, Florida Governor Rick Scott vetoed the much-anticipated bill due to a proposed revision of current child custody laws.
The proposed alimony bill included a new rule that created a presumption of equal-time sharing between divorced parents, an inclusion that led to the death of the legislative measure that could have an impact on the separate issue of alimony.
Proposed Changes to Alimony Laws in Florida
Senate Bill 668 authored by Senator Lee proposed the following changes to current alimony rules:
- Provide courts with a clear formula for calculating alimony and its duration, considering specific factors such as the respective income of the parties and the duration of the marriage
- Create a rebuttable presumption that alimony shall not be awarded in marriages of short duration, 2 years or less
- Imputation of income: A legal provision which allows the court to calculate alimony based on the potential income of a paying party who is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed
- Award of nominal alimony which the court may award when a party who traditionally provided support to the family temporarily lacks the financial ability to provide support. Nominal alimony is set at $1 per year and may be modified later to a full alimony award following the alimony calculation guidelines established by the proposed law
- Duty of the court to state specific findings on relevant factors to justify an alimony award that is outside the calculated presumptive alimony amount
- Rule setting the maximum combined award of alimony and child support at not more than 55% of the payor’s net income
- Security of award: A legal provision which allows the court, under special circumstances, to order one party to purchase or provide a life insurance policy in a sufficient amount to secure the alimony award
- Termination of alimony award to take effect upon the death of either party or the remarriage of the paying party
- Modification of alimony, affecting only the amount of the award but not the duration of the alimony award
Current alimony laws in Florida allow courts great latitude in setting the amount of alimony using several factors, such as the income of the parties and the duration of the marriage. Modification of the award is also possible if the party seeking the change can prove substantial changes in the circumstances of the parties to justify the modification.
The proposed changes could have radically changed the manner by which alimony awards are determined, potentially creating consistency and fairness in their determination, and potentially adding some degree of financial relief on a paying party by setting a maximum combined award and clear termination events of an alimony award.
Reason for the Veto
The Senate Bill 668 contained other provisions affecting Florida Family Law, particularly one that created the presumption that equal time-sharing between parents is in the child’s best interests.
In rejecting the legal premise of equal time-sharing, Governor Scott said that the new law placed the wants of the parents above the child’s best interests, which the current law protects. He also said that in deciding issues affecting children in family law cases, the court must take into account each family’s unique situation and put the child’s best interests above everything else.
The Governor’s statement did not address the proposed changes in Florida’s alimony law which were struck down along with the equal time-sharing provision.
This is the second time that the Governor has vetoed proposed alimony reforms in Florida. The latest bill’s sponsors plan to continue their pursuit for alimony reforms next time through separate bills tackling alimony, child custody, and other family law issues.
Financial Impact of Alimony
If you are contemplating divorce or dissolution of your marriage in Florida, existing rules on alimony can have an impact on your future finances. Depending on the circumstances of your case, an award can extend for a long period and take up a large portion of your resources. It’s important to discuss your situation immediately with an experienced alimony attorney who can analyze your case and provide you with appropriate legal advice to help you make informed decisions.
Going through a divorce is a challenging time for everyone and can be made more complicated when alimony issues are raised. Your divorce attorney can help sort your legal issues and if necessary, go to trial in order to protect your rights and obtain a fair outcome in your situation.
In Pinellas County, Florida, the Law Firm for Family Law was established by lawyer Gary Williams, one of only 18 Board Certified Experts in Marital and Family Law in the region. Armed with an MBA, Gary Williams has the added advantage of understanding the special needs of business owners who are undergoing dissolution of their marriages.
Our firm also handles other family law cases such as divorce, child custody, child support, military divorce, and paternity. We invite you to call us today at (727) 531-8737 to schedule a consultation.