On March 9, the Florida legislature sent a controversial family law bill to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk for consideration. As of this writing on April 1, there is no available news about whether he has decided to sign S.B. 1796.
And that will be no small decision. Former Gov. Rick Scott vetoed almost identical legislation twice, and the two sides have bitterly clashed for a decade or so about the issues in the bill.
The detailed, wide-reaching legislation is best known for two reasons:
- It would eliminate permanent alimony and limit it in other ways, including special provisions for how an alimony obligor’s reasonable retirement could reduce or eliminate payments.
- The bill would establish a legal presumption that an equal, 50-50 split of time sharing between parents would be in a minor child’s best interests.
Today we begin a two-part discussion of the alimony provisions that we will follow with a post about the time-sharing presumption.
The end of permanent alimony in Florida?
If passed, the new law would eliminate permanent alimony as an option for judges crafting spousal support awards in divorce. The goal of alimony would be to “allow the recipient to achieve rehabilitation” – in other words, to help them get back to work and become self-supporting.
Alimony options would become any combination of:
- Bridge-the-gap alimony for up to two years to support “legitimate identifiable short-term needs” in the transition to becoming single
- Rehabilitative alimony for up to five years or until the recipient completes or abandons their rehabilitative (vocational or professional) plan to become self-supporting
- Durational alimony for marriages of at least three years to provide financial support for a defined time period based on a formula that would reflect the length of the marriage. For example, for a marriage of at least 20 years, the alimony duration would be capped at 75% of the marriage length. Amount would be the reasonable need of the recipient or an amount less than 35% of the difference between the litigants’ net income, whichever is less.
A court could extend durational alimony beyond the applicable cap if the obligee-recipient is permanently disabled and unable to support themselves, or is the full-time caregiver to a permanently disabled child of the marriage. Duration would stop if the child died or the need for alimony otherwise ends.
In part 2, we will discuss the retirement provisions of the bill as well as a highly debated issue about retroactive application of the legislation.