TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — By a vote of 74 to 42, the Florida House on Wednesday passed legislation that would end permanent child support payments in the state. It’s a move that drew praise from some, and others called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto the bill.
“What is changing is that the various types of alimony that exist in Florida will now face severe limitations on how long they are valid,” said Jeffrey Swartz, law professor at WMU Cooley Law School in Tampa.
what you need to know
- SB 1796 passed Florida House on Wednesday
- If signed into law, the law would change the way child support is paid
- The Florida Family Fairness group says the bill would make the process fairer and more predictable for everyone
- The Florida Bar’s Family Law Section is asking the governor to veto the bill
- READ THE BILL: SB 1796
The bill states: “Permanent maintenance may not exceed 50 percent of the length of a marriage lasting between three and 10 years, 60 percent of the length of a marriage lasting between 10 and 20 years, or 75 percent of the length of a marriage lasting 20 years or more.” This may be extended even if the person seeking maintenance is disabled and unable to take care of themselves.
“The second thing is that there are now strict guidelines on how these alimony payments should be calculated,” Swartz said. “The changes will be significant because they also address issues of the supportive relationship after the marriage ends and during the time alimony is paid.”
Swartz said that means if the person receiving child support is receiving financial support from someone else, the ex-spouse paying the support can request the payments to end.
“Now we’re going based on needs, not the idea of maintaining a certain standard of living,” Swartz said.
The Florida Family Fairness group praised the move, saying in a statement the bill would “modernize Florida’s child support law by making the process fairer and more predictable for all parties.”
The vote in the House of Representatives is also drawing strong reactions from those opposed to the law.
“The biggest potential impact is that the contracts that these people have entered into, the alimony they’ve been relying on, the budgets they’ve built based on those existing alimony are at serious risk,” Andrea Reid said , a member of both the Florida Law Section of the Executive Council and the Florida Bar Legislative Committee.
Reid said the law would apply retrospectively, meaning existing child support agreements could be abolished or significantly reduced. Of particular concern is part of the bill that says that if the person paying the alimony retires, alimony payments may end before the time limit set by the length of the marriage.
“I think the conversation gets complicated because proponents of the bill are saying, ‘Yes, it’s retrospective, but you could always change it based on retirement, so it doesn’t do anything that doesn’t currently exist in the law,'” he said Reid. “But the reality of that is really important when you pull back the surface. What this bill does is it takes into account existing alimony that people have contracted into and prenuptial agreements or what they have been awarded by courts and what it is doing is it creates a whole new process for that. The previous process included certain safeguards such as making sure that retirement was necessary, that retirement was proper, that retirement was at the right age. The new law doesn’t ask that question.”
Reid said, based on the Family Law Department’s interpretation of that bill, if one member of a 65-year-old couple did not work for much of the marriage to be a homemaker and that couple retired and then divorced, the Person who would be the housewife no alimony. The section is asking Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto the bill.
There is much more to the bill, including introducing a presumption of equal time sharing with children. More information on this and other details can be found here: