Revised maintenance reform law receives committee references
Sen. Joe Gruters is hoping the third time is a charm for his child support reform bill.
On March 2, the Sarasota Republican filed SB 1416, which would allow the courts to award any party alimony in the form of “temporary, interim, rehabilitative, or permanent alimony, as equitable” and would eliminate the term, “enduring in nature”, from the statutes.
In addition, it would allow judges to consider the adultery of either spouse and the resulting economic implications when determining the amount of alimony awarded and to examine what happens when a spouse who has been ordered to pay child support is in retirement.
The bill was brought before two Senate committees, Fiscal Policy and Rules, on March 9.
This is Gruters’ third attempt to pass alimony reform. In 2021, Gruters unexpectedly withdrew its measure 10 days before the end of the session after a heated debate over the child sharing provision in the bill.
Last year, Gruters submitted SB 1796, which passed both chambers. However, the bill was not without its critics, including the Family Law Division of the Florida Bar.
Section chair Philip S. Wartenberg told the Florida Bar News last March that Gruters’ bill would retroactively void existing agreements, spark bitter custody battles and endanger children.
“Our great concern is that this bill will turn the well-founded expectations of maintenance recipients from an existing contract on its head,” said Wartenberg at the time.
The bill went to the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who vetoed the measure.
“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,” DeSantis wrote.
In this year’s version of the Maintenance Act, Gruters has revised the wording to reflect existing maintenance agreements.
“We’re bringing it back, and this time with no repercussions,” Gruters told Florida Politics. “We got both sides to agree on the language, so I think that will pass.”
SB 1416 marks the fifth time that alimony reform has passed before the Legislature.
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.”
Scott also vetoed a 2012 alimony reform measure, citing concerns about retroactivity and its potential impact on recipients.
Rep. John Temple, R-Wildwood, filed HB 1409, the identical accompanying bill, in the House of Representatives on March 3, which received references to the House Subcommittee on Civil Justice and the Judiciary Committee.