What a proposed reform bill could mean for Floridans with existing child support orders, says Vanessa Vasquez de Lara, a Florida divorce attorney
“If the bill becomes law, it could mean many people with existing support orders could be taken to court over changes.”
Florida House Bill 1409 passed through the House Civil Judiciary Committee last week, according to The Florida Bar, and now only needs to be acquitted by the Judiciary Committee before it can be heard on the House floor. The bill aims to reform current child support laws in the Sunshine State.
A decade of failed child support reform in Florida
This isn’t the first time a support reform bill has crossed the desk of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or his predecessor, former Gov. Rick Scott. In fact, the currently proposed child support law is the fourth in the past 10 years and continues a long history of debate in Florida over updating state child support laws.
Last year, Gov. Desantis vetoed a controversial alimony bill, saying the retrospective nature of the law was unconstitutional. In both 2013 and 2016, Governor Scott vetoed similar bills. He vetoed it over similar concerns about mandatory retrospective application. He vetoed the other because he objected to terms outlining timeshare presumptions.
“It’s clear that both the former and current governors of Florida take support reform very seriously,” Vasquez de Lara said. “The new law must allay those same concerns if Desantis is to enact the legislation.”
Will the legislators agree on the new legal language?
The Florida Bar says the proposed alimony bill has created more unity among lawmakers. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. John Paul Temple, says lawmakers are unanimous so far because previously contentious issues are not included. For example, he said the language of the bill does not require judges to retrospectively respond to existing child support orders and does not include allegations of child timeshare.
However, some have contradicted Temple’s statements about the disputed items allegedly removed. Former family law judge Robert Doyel, for example, pointed out that the vague wording of the bill suggests it can be applied retrospectively.
Changes proposed in the New Florida Alimony Reform Bill
Dealing with the question of the pension for maintenance payers
A key measure in HB 1409 concerns retirement as a life and income change for those making alimony payments. It would allow alimony payers to take their ex-spouses to court when they retire to attempt changes to their existing alimony arrangements.
“Current Florida law requires the paying party to continue making child support payments into retirement. If the new law were passed, changes could be made once the payer retires based on their reduced income,” noted Vasquez de Lara.
A judge would consider several factors in any Florida alimony case before stopping or reducing payments. These factors include the payer’s age, health, and motivation for retirement, as well as the severity of the economic impact the change would have on the receiving spouse.
Abolition of permanent maintenance
However, arguably the biggest proposed change to the alimony laws is the abolition of permanent alimony. This type of alimony is usually ordered in divorce cases where the couple is in a long-term marriage and is granted until either the receiving spouse remarries or one of the spouses dies.
“If the law is passed, only one alimony payment will be available to the receiving spouse, which sets a set time frame for payments. This could mean the official end of permanent child support payments in Florida,” Vasquez de Lara said.
The Vasquez de Lara Law Group is located at 7700 N. Kendall Dr., Suite 607, Miami, FL 33156.
About Vasquez from the Lara Law Group
Vasquez de Lara Law Group is a Florida law firm with an experienced team of family law attorneys in Miami. Serving areas such as Aventura, Coral Gables, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, Miami Beach and other areas of South Florida, the law firm handles a variety of family law areas including divorce, mediation, child custody, paternity and alimony.
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