Bill ending ‘everlasting’ alimony en path to Senate – The Florida Bar

Bill ending ‘permanent’ alimony en route to Senate

A proposal to abolish “permanent” alimony is being brought to the Senate, despite strong objection from the Family Law Department and other critics.

The Senate Rules Committee voted 10-5 on March 1 for Senator approval of SB 1796. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota.

“This bill is the fairest and most sane alimony reform bill that has been introduced to the legislature,” Gruters said.

The day before, the Appropriations Committee introduced the bill after a heated debate by 11 votes to 8.

Gruters stressed the measure would reduce litigation by providing “consistency” and “predictability.”

By eliminating so-called “permanent” alimony, the bill emphasizes bridge maintenance, rehabilitating and permanent alimony.

It would limit rehabilitation alimony to five years and bar the granting of alimony to marriages shorter than three years.

Maintenance would be granted for half the length of marriages lasting between three and ten years, 60% of the length of marriages between 10 and 20 years, and 75% of the length of marriages lasting 20 years or more.

Permanent alimony payments would be limited to the recipient’s “reasonable needs” or 35% of the difference in income, whichever is less.

The measure would create a “wind-up” period that would allow a departing spouse, in certain circumstances, to reduce alimony payments by 25% per year over a four-year period after making a formal notification.

The measure would create a legal presumption in favor of equal time sharing for children, a provision that stalled the measure in the Senate’s last session.

Gruters said the bill would not affect most “unmodifiable” agreements.

However, critics slammed the proposal, warning it would spark a courthouse rush, impoverish long-term recipients and put children in an abusive home at greater risk.

Senator Jason Pizzo, D-Miami, offered an amendment that would limit the action to resolutions filed after July 1, 2022.

“These are contracts, these are comparisons, these are mind games between two people,” said Pizzo. “That would be…extraordinary…to go back to things that people have set their lives around.”

Andrea Reid, a South Florida marriages attorney who serves on the executive board of the family law department, urged the committee to accept Pizzo’s amendment.

“We need to land this plane,” Reid said. “This is a retrospective bill. It is not good law in its retroactivity, and this particular amendment would address retroactivity, which is not appropriate for this type of law.”

Pizzo’s amendment was defeated on a vote.

Shannon Novey, a Tallahassee attorney representing the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, said the retirement rules are unfair to dependents.

The 50-50 timeshare provision would also force more parents to fight custody battles, she said.

“It guarantees more litigation and it’s going to be ugly litigation,” Novey said. “People who have very valid reasons for not wanting a 50-50 timeshare … it leaves them with no choice but to hit the nuclear button and pursue a no-holds-barred legal battle.”

Gruters argued that judges must continue to base timeshare decisions on a child’s best interests.

People who work well past retirement age to meet their ongoing maintenance obligations need relief, argued Gruters.

“What’s happening is some people want to retire, and it’s not changeable, and they’re stuck — and it’s sad for them,” he said. “They work out there until they’re dead.”

Safety valves would protect recipients, Gruters said.

Recipients caring for a disabled child would be exempt, and provisions would prevent a recipient’s income from falling below 130% of the federal poverty line or being unable to afford “basic needs or necessities of life,” he said.

When they know what to expect, divorcing couples are less likely to fight, Gruters argued.

“Alimony recipients today could lose their alimony payments if a payer retires,” he said. “This changes the process of what is already allowed, with the sole aim of limiting litigation.”

A Companion, HB 1395 by Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, R-Fort. Myers, it’s on the house calendar.

The 60-day session is scheduled to be adjourned on March 11.

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