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Will Governor Ron DeSantis Sign Florida’s 2023 Alimony Reform Bill?

florida law
florida law

UPDATE: Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation on June 30 (SB 1416) overhauling divorce law in Florida. The most sweeping change eliminates permanent alimony and revises the factors that courts must consider when awarding alimony.

The new law took effect on July 1. The bill is not retroactive and will only apply to divorces filed on or after July 1, 2023.

Florida Alimony Law 2023: Permanent Alimony Eliminated

Florida’s legislature recently passed a bill that aims to change the state’s alimony laws, which have been a contentious issue for many years. The bill, known as SB 1416, would revise the factors that courts must consider when awarding alimony and create new guidelines for modifying or terminating alimony payments.

However, the bill has also faced opposition from some groups, such as family law attorneys, who argue that it could harm certain spouses who rely on alimony for their financial support. As the bill heads to Governor Ron DeSantis’ desk, the question remains: Will he sign it into law?

Before we delve into that question, let’s review some key provisions of the bill. SB 1416 proposes to:

  • Removing a provision authorizing the court to award permanent alimony;
  • Requiring the court to reduce or terminate support, maintenance, or alimony under certain circumstances;
  • Authorizing the court to consider the adultery of either spouse and any resulting economic impact in determining the amount of alimony awarded;
  • Requiring the court to make certain written findings in its awards of alimony;
  • Authorizing the court to award a combination of forms of alimony or forms of payment for certain purposes;
  • Providing a burden of proof for the party seeking support, maintenance, or alimony;
  • Requiring the court to make written findings under certain circumstances;
  • Revising factors that the court must consider in determining the form or forms of support, maintenance, or alimony;
  • Requiring the court to make specific findings regarding the purchase or maintenance of a life insurance policy or a bond to secure alimony;
  • Modifying certain rebuttable presumptions related to the duration of a marriage for purposes of determining alimony;
  • Prohibiting the length of an award of rehabilitative alimony from exceeding a specified timeframe;
  • Revising a provision authorizing the modification of rehabilitative alimony upon completion of the rehabilitative plan; and
  • Authorizing the court to reduce or terminate an award of support, maintenance, or alimony upon specific written findings of fact regarding the obligor’s retirement.

Now, let’s turn to the political landscape surrounding the bill. Governor DeSantis, a Republican, has not yet indicated his position on the bill, which passed the Senate by a vote of 36-6 and the House by a vote of 102-12. If the governor signs the bill, it would take effect on July 1, 2023, and apply to all alimony awards entered on or after that date.

However, some observers speculate that the governor may be hesitant to sign the bill due to its potential impact on certain groups, such as women and low-income earners. Critics of the bill argue that it could make it harder for some spouses to obtain alimony, especially those who have been out of the workforce for a long time or who have health issues that limit their ability to work.

On the other hand, supporters of the bill argue that it would bring more predictability and fairness to alimony awards, as well as reduce the potential for long-term dependency on alimony. They also note that other states, such as Massachusetts, have already enacted similar alimony reform laws that have withstood legal challenges.

The fate of Florida’s 2023 alimony reform bill is uncertain at this point. Governor Ron DeSantis has yet to make a public statement on whether he will sign the bill into law, and the bill’s opponents and supporters continue to debate its merits. However, regardless of the governor’s decision, it is clear that alimony reform remains a complex and divisive issue in Florida and elsewhere, and that any changes to the law will likely have significant effects on many families.