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Three strikes: Florida governor vetoes alimony and custody reform bill

On Behalf of | Jun 24, 2022 | Alimony, Child Custody, High Asset Divorce, Visitation and time-sharing |

Well, three times was not a charm. Instead, it was three strikes and out.

Today, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed the highly contentious bill that would have eliminated permanent alimony and required judges to presume that an equal split of parenting time is in the child’s best interest. We have recently discussed this bill extensively, including the mystery about whether the governor would sign or veto it, which he kept to himself until the end.

This is the third veto of a bill with the same or similar provisions, the previous two vetoes were by former Gov. Rick Scott.

What is so controversial?

Our previous posts explained the details of the divisive provisions of SB 1796 – those involving alimony and the presumption that a 50-50 parenting time split is in a child’s best interest, subject to rebutting evidence.

As we explained, the legislation would have done away with permanent alimony in almost all cases in lieu of other spousal support options that would tend to last a finite time and place expectations on the recipient of becoming self-sufficient. The paying party would have certain privileges when they reach a reasonable retirement age that could in the most extreme cases end payments altogether.

Retroactivity was the problem

But the alimony provision that the governor hung his veto hat on is the one that could have made retroactive application of the law to divorces already litigated and closed. Many people interpreted the law to require application of the new alimony standards to a past divorce when it comes before the court for modification. This could potentially undue a negotiated settlement agreement or a reasoned judge’s decision in the original divorce that the parties had planned their lives around.

According to the governor’s veto letter, if the bill became law with retroactive application “as the Legislature intends, it would unconstitutionally impair vested rights under certain preexisting marital settlement agreements,” citing the section of the state constitution that prohibits the passage of laws that interfere with private contracts.

The vetoed bill returns to the Florida Senate where it originated. The Senate may reconsider the bill until the next regular session. Or if both the state senate and house vote to override the veto by a two-thirds vote, it would become law by virtue of overriding the veto.

For now, many cases caught in the court system during this uncertainty may be able to move forward, but it remains to be seen what advocates for these changes will attempt. In the meantime, a lawyer can answer questions about the current state of the law.

 

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The Law Office of Forrest & Forrest, PLLC represents individuals in Fort Lauderdale in high-asset divorce matters. Daniel Forrest is board-certified family lawyer and mediator serving the South Florida area.

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