Green light for House Committee alimony reform
“Divorce is hard. It can be ugly and hurtful. I believe this bill will help make that process smoother and less ugly.’
Support reform is now poised to speak in both houses as the measure to abolish permanent alimony and replace it with permanent alimony based on length of marriage passes the House Judiciary Committee on April 11 by a vote of 23-0 became.
Rep. John Paul Temple, a Wildwood Republican, said HB 1409 lends much-needed finality to the process.
“Divorce is hard. It can be ugly and hurtful. I believe this bill will help make that process smoother and less ugly,” Temple said.
Temple told the committee that his bill establishes a clear process and factors courts must consider when deciding whether to reduce or terminate alimony due to the payer’s retirement. He emphasized that this is not a new law and will not negatively affect existing child support payments.
“The trial and factors are a culmination of 31 years of jurisprudence dating back to the 1992 case of Pimm v. Pimm, when the Florida Supreme Court recognized that voluntary retirement may be a material change to warrant a reduction or termination of the to justify child support payments,” Temple said.
Just as they did for Senate peer SB 1416 during his April 5 Rules Committee hearing, members of the 3,000-member First Wives Advocacy Group continued to oppose the legislation, claiming it was unconstitutional with retroactive effect on the existing agreements.
“I signed a prenuptial agreement under applicable law. It’s a contract that I’ve aligned my life to, and the rug is being pulled out from under it,” First Wives member Muriel Meuniere told the committee.
Meuniere said her major concern is that the bill doesn’t include a start date for July 1, 2023 – an omission she claims makes it retroactive.
Another First Wives advocate, Sue Savage, said the bill would hamper ongoing contracts.
“They have stated that they are simply appealing the decision of the Pimm v. Pimm from 1992,” Savage said. “This is disinformation. Not all alimony will be ordered by a judge and not all alimony will be awarded.”
Speaking for the family law department, Trish Armstrong also emphasized that the bill is not retroactive. Armstrong cited the line number in the bill indicating it is for initial action only.
“This is something the family law department has been vocal about in the past,” Armstrong said. “If this were unconstitutional retrospective, if it adversely affected ongoing agreements, the Section would not support it.”
Member of the Democratic hierarchy Mike Gottlieb, a criminal defense attorney, read the text and agreed with Armstrong that the bill was not retroactive.
“Special, [the bill says] The court will apply this section to all initial requests for dissolution of marriage or assistance ending or filed after July 1, 2023,” Gottlieb said. “I think it’s good that the legislative intention was specified today that it shouldn’t be retrospective.”
Gottlieb said if the measure were strengthened to add “marriage or support ending or filed only after July 1, 2023,” it would address concerns about retroactivity.
Rep. Yvonne Hinson, D-Gainesville, noted that she is not an attorney and said there were many problems with the bill that she did not understand.
“I’ve conflicted about that and I’ve been over time,” Hinson said. “I don’t believe in permanent alimony. People should find a way to become independent.”
Aside from “just not understanding the bill,” Hinson said she was moved by the women who came forward and testified against the measure.
Near him, Temple addressed Hinson directly.
“Rep. Hinson, I’m not an attorney either,” Temple said. “So before I committed to picking up that bill, I had a lot of questions. I spoke to both sides separately. I was finally comfortable with where it was and with intention as a senior member [Gottlieb] talked about.”
Temple said he also doesn’t believe in permanent alimony, stressing he’s confident the law won’t be retroactive.
“I can’t speak to the interpretations of others who have spoken previously, but I have done my due diligence and asked several different people and ensured that there was no retrospective negative impact on people who have already made these commitments,” Temple said .
Temple’s comments allayed Hinson’s fears as she voted on the bill.
“Thank you for getting this across the finish line this year,” said Justice Vice Chairman Toby Overdorf, R-Palm City. “I’m also grateful to the Family Law Department of the Florida Bar Association for being here and agreeing to this. They have my full support and I look forward to not seeing it next year.”