Understanding the Failure of Alimony Reform

- Gary E. Williams

On May 1, 2013, Florida Governor Rick Scott vetoed a controversial alimony reform bill that would have become law within hours. The law, Senate Bill 718, would have had the following effects:

  • Made it more difficult for family courts to order alimony payments following the dissolution of short-term marriages
  • Prevented alimony payments from extending beyond a length of time equal to the marriage
  • Required equal child custody rights for both parents outside of extraordinary circumstances

DID GOVERNOR SCOTT MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE?

While few argue that the Florida alimony system is perfect as is, Governor Scott argued that Senate Bill 178 would have unfair ramifications for Florida couples who are already divorced.

But backers of the bill believe change is necessary for existing divorcees as well as future ones, especially with regards to permanent alimony. They plan to continue fighting for reform in some fashion.

There are many, though, who maintain the system may be flawed in its current form, but still serves its basic purpose well – so long as alimony payments are determined according to the financial situations of all parties and are related to the term of the marriage.

HOW DOES THIS MATTER AFFECT YOU?

If you are considering divorce in the state of Florida, this ruling affects you in one key way. Florida family court judges still have complete control over the amount of alimony they may award in a divorce case, and the length of time over which alimony must be paid. Therefore, you should never consider filing for divorce in the Sunshine State without experienced legal representation.