The governor vetoed the alimony bill
Nearly three months after it sparked heated debate in both houses, Gov. Ron DeSantis has vetoed a support reform measure, citing its retroactive effect.
SB 1796 would have abolished permanent alimony, provided a “path to retirement” for ex-spouses who pay alimony, and created a legal presumption that 50-50 timeshares are in a child’s best interests.
“If CS/CS/SB 1796 were to become law and apply retrospectively, as the legislature intended, it would affect unconstitutionally acquired rights under certain pre-existing marriage agreements,” Gov. DeSantis wrote in his veto letter, citing Article I, Section 10 of the Florida Constitution.
The Family Law Department and others lobbied against the measure, arguing it would disrupt existing agreements, spark bitter custody battles and put children at risk.
“The Florida Bar Association’s Family Law Division has long advocated for legislative proposals that would have a positive and productive impact on couples and families affected by divorce,” said Family Law Division Chair Philip Wartenberg and the immediate former Chair, Heather Apicella, in a statement released on the Facebook page of the Family Law Section of the Bar’s Annual Convention in Orlando shortly after the veto was announced. “The dissolution of a marriage and the subsequent custody issues are very traumatic for everyone involved, and it has been our mission to speak up on behalf of those affected by divorce proceedings.
“Since the beginning of the 2022 Legislative Session, we have raised concerns about the retrospective effects of Senate Act 1796. If this law had been signed, it would have turned thousands and thousands of settlements on their head, the courts would have defaulted, and the lives of many Floridians would have been upset.
“We thank Gov. Ron DeSantis for vetoing this measure and for his understanding of the bad precedent that retroactivity of the Contracted Contracts Bill would have set in the state of Florida.”
(The Family Law Department has vetoed this on its own behalf. Under the Advocate’s Policy, departments with voluntary membership and dues have a wide range of leeway on issues they wish to influence, and departments must also make it clear that they only represent themselves and not the bar as a whole.)
Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, sponsored the bill in the Senate and Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, R-Ft. Myers, carried the attendant into the house. They had called the measure the culmination of a 10-year effort to abolish Florida’s permanent alimony and insisted it wasn’t retroactive.
One provision would have created a “wind-up” period that would have allowed a departing ex-spouse, in certain circumstances, to reduce alimony payments by 25% per year over a four-year period after giving formal notice.
A similar reform bill stalled last year when the Senate objected to the same timeshare provision.
In 2016, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a support reform measure that included an equal time-share provision. In his veto message, Scott wrote that the provision “would place the wishes of a parent ahead of the best interests of a child.”
Four years earlier, Scott vetoed another measure of alimony reform, citing concerns about retroactivity and its impact on alimony recipients.