DeSantis Signs Bill to End Permanent Alimony in Florida
On March 2, 2023, a new alimony reform bill (SB 1416) was filed in Florida, making it the fourth legislative attempt to modify alimony laws in recent years. In this case, the perseverance appeared to have paid off, to the great shock of many Floridians. Despite vetoing a similar legislative effort last year, Governor Ron DeSantis just approved SB 1416 to end permanent alimony in Florida.
Keep reading to learn more about the potential ramifications of SB 1416 for Florida couples and families.
How Will Florida’s New Alimony Law Affect Families?
One reason why DeSantis's decision was so surprising to voters is that similar bills have been vetoed in the not-too-distant past. Before DeSantis came to power, former Governor Rick Scott also vetoed two alimony bills that reached his desk.
Although The Florida Bar’s Family Law Section has also turned down past alimony reform bills, it decided to sign off on SB 1416. “For 10 years, we’ve been coming up here and fighting this bill,” representative Andrea Reid explains. “This is a different bill that not only the Family Law Section of The Florida Bar got behind, but also the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.”
Republican Senator Joe Gruters, a three-time proposer of alimony reform in Florida, says he hopes the new bill will offer Florida families "more predictability and consistency" by creating a definitive parameter to help courts to determine the appropriate amount and duration of alimony.
Alimony reform in Florida has been a longstanding topic of controversy. Essentially, the new law creates a formula for alimony that relies on specified factors, including the length of the marriage. Below are some important changes that Floridians can expect when the new bill takes effect on July 1, 2023:
Permanent alimony will be eliminated in the state of Florida.
SB 1416 eliminates permanent or lifetime alimony in Florida. Instead, courts will be left with the following types of alimony:
- Temporary Alimony
- Bridge-the-Gap Alimony
- Rehabilitative Alimony
- Durational Alimony
Courts reserve the right to order alimony payments in a lump sum or recurring payments.
Florida courts will reserve the right to take infidelity into account when determining alimony.
S.B. 1416 permits Florida courts to consider adultery as an influencing factor when determining alimony during or after divorce.
There will be specific criteria established for determining marriage duration.
The new law will establish a new specified framework for defining marriage length. The duration for short, moderate, and long-term marriages is defined as follows:
- Short-term marriage: Marital unions lasting less than 10 years
- Moderate-term marriage: Marital unions lasting 10-20 years
- Long-term marriage: Marital unions lasting 20 years or more
Family courts must consider certain factors when determining alimony.
When considering motions to modify or terminate alimony, Florida courts will examine several key factors, including:
- The duration of the marriage
- Each party’s contributions to the marriage
- Each party’s income and financial resources
- Each party’s age and mental/physical health condition
- Whether the party seeking support has an actual need for it
- Each party’s employability, earning capacities, educational levels
- Each party’s anticipated responsibilities in childrearing (if applicable)
- Any other factors that courts require to reach a just and equitable decision
- The couple’s standard of living during the marriage and the anticipated needs of each individual after the divorce is finalized
Courts may reduce or terminate alimony awards if a “supportive relationship” exists.
Should the court discover the existence of a supportive relationship, the obligor is responsible for providing evidence of it under the new law. If the obligor achieves this, the obligee must then prove by a preponderance of evidence that the court should not modify or terminate the alimony agreement.
The courts reserve the right to terminate or modify alimony agreements upon retirement.
The new alimony law gives Florida courts the right to modify or terminate alimony payments upon “reasonable retirement.” Obligors may apply for alimony modifications no sooner than 6 months prior to their planned retirement. From there, the courts may consider a number of influencing factors to reach a decision.
Will SB 1416 Impact Existing Alimony Agreements?
As is often the case when new bills are signed into law, it depends. While some existing alimony arrangements may be affected by the law, others will not.
Senator Lori Berman (D-Boynton Beach), who was among the dissenters of the new bill, proposed an amendment to ensure the bill was not retroactive—but it was ultimately turned down on the basis of being unfriendly. “Both sides have agreed to every single portion of this bill, so this is an unfriendly amendment,” Senator Gruters explains.
Still, supporters of the new bill acknowledge that many existing alimony arrangements will be impacted by these upcoming changes in July. The only existing alimony agreements that will remain unaffected under the new law are those defined as non-modifiable, meaning that any existing alimony arrangements that are not non-modifiable orders—regardless of duration—are subject to change after SB 1416 goes into effect on July 1.
“Just to be clear, if a party is a non-modifiable alimony award there is nothing in this bill that changes that,” Gruters adds. Florida’s Family Law Section agrees with this, stating that the new bill is not “unconstitutionally retroactive.”
“I think there’s some confusion about the retroactive application of this bill because there are provisions in this bill that are going to apply to cases that are existing right now and to agreements that exist right now,” Reid said.
Nonetheless, Reid also acknowledges that the majority of existing orders are not modifiable, meaning that many Floridians stand to be affected by this new law in July.
Contact a Compassionate Family Lawyer in Jacksonville
Family law is one of the most complex areas of our legal system, making it essential for families to turn to a Jacksonville advocate they can trust to keep their best interests at heart. At the Law Offices of Jason K.S. Porter, P.A., our dedicated attorneys have an in-depth understanding of family law in Florida, making us well-equipped to represent couples and families in a wide range of cases. Whether you’re preparing for a divorce, child custody battle, or other family matter, our compassionate firm has the extensive experience and successful track record to put your mind at ease. Reach out today to learn how we can help you take the first step toward the happier, healthier future you deserve.
Preparing for a family law dispute in Florida? Call (904) 701-0591 to request a consultation with an experienced family lawyer in Jacksonville.