DeSantis vetoes alimony overhaul, marking his third failure in a decade of “reform” efforts | Florida

On Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed a child support overhaul bill sponsored by Senator Joe Gruters, leader of the Florida Republican Party, and by the National Organization for Women, the Florida Bar’s Family Law Section and others was rejected by critics.

It was the third strike in a decade for groups of ex-spouses trying to end permanent alimony not only in future divorce settlements but also in settlements made years and decades ago.

DeSantis’ veto message focused on retroactivity in the Senate Act of 1796, although his proponents disputed that it would apply to pre-existing alimony agreements.

Former Gov. Rick Scott vetoed similar legislation in 2013 and 2016.

“If CS/CS/SB 1796 were to become law and apply retroactively, as the legislature intended, it would affect unconstitutionally acquired rights under certain pre-existing prenuptial agreements,” DeSantis wrote in his veto message. He quoted Article I, Section 10 of the Florida Constitution.

Democratic lawmakers and some Republicans also rejected the bill during the 2022 regular session.

“Proudly Proud”

Jan Killilea, speaking for a group of ex-spouses, mostly women, who call themselves the First Wives Advocacy Group, expressed her gratitude that SB 1796 failed like its predecessors, but she said the recurring struggle has taken its toll her and other “First” demanded wives.”

“I am deeply proud of the women and men who have had the inner strength to stand up for what they believe in,” Killilea, marketing manager for a small business in West Palm Beach, said in a text message to Phoenix.

“For nearly 10 years, we’ve dodged arrows while opposing the alimony reform laws. Today our governor put an end to the fight for 2022.”

Five days ago, while still awaiting the governor’s decision on whether to sign or reject SB 1796, Killilea expressed fatigue and dismay.

“Our group is tired of reform,” she wrote. “We keep fighting for all the women who don’t have a voice and don’t know how that happened when he [the governor] signs the bill. … We are fed up with these wealthy men trying to destroy us.”

Tampa trial attorney Marc Johnson, chairman of the Florida Family Fairness support reform group, criticized the governor for his veto.

“We are incredibly disappointed at the veto of this much-needed law. Today, Gov. DeSantis has put divorce attorneys ahead of Florida families and parents who love their children and want to be a part of their lives,” Johnson wrote Friday.

Sponsors of the bill included Senator Joe Gruters of Sarasota and Charlotte Counties, who is chairman of the Florida Republican Party, and Republican Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka of Lee County. The prosecutor’s family law division and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers testified against the law during the session, requesting DeSantis to veto it.

retroactivity disputed

Florida Family Fairness and the bill’s sponsors had insisted that SB 1796 was not “retroactive” to allow ex-spouses to pay permanent child support when they reach retirement age.

SB 1796 would also have introduced a 50/50 presumption for time-sharing the minor children of a divorced couple; eliminated adultery as a consideration in alimony agreements; and set a financial floor for spouses who lose ongoing alimony to keep them from falling into poverty, defined as 130 percent of the federal poverty line (about $18,000 a year for a one-person household and about $43,000 for a family of five, so the American Council on Aging).

Portions of this story appeared on the website of Florida Phoenix, a nonprofit news organization dedicated to reporting on Tallahassee state government and politics. You can visit them by clicking here.

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