Four hours before it was to automatically became law, Governor Rick Scott on May 1, 2013 vetoed a measure that would have ended permanent alimony in Florida. In light of the overwhelming majorities in the House (85-31) and Senate (29-11) that approved the bill, Floridians should anticipate a similar debate in the next legislative session. In addition to ending permanent alimony, the bill would have made it much harder to get alimony in short term marriages and would have limited the duration of alimony to one half the length of the marriage. In a letter to the Senate President, the Governor stated he could not “support the legislation because it applies retroactively and thus tampers with the settled economic expectations of many Floridians who have experienced divorce. He also said, “The retroactive adjustment of alimony could result in unfair, unanticipated results.”
Alimony has been under attack for the past several years. In 2005, a law was passed that allowed a spouse paying alimony to seek to modify or terminate his or her alimony obligation on the basis that the recipient spouse was involved in “supportive relationship.” See F.S. 61.14(1)(b). Since Florida doesn’t recognize common law marriages, this law provided a tool to reduce or eliminate alimony if the receiving spouse was, for all practical purposes, married but for the marriage ceremony and resulting certificate. We lawyers refer to this as a ” de facto marriage. ” I personally have successfully litigated several of these supportive relationship actions. After all, it comes down to basic fairness.
In July of 2011, the legislature passed a re-write of the alimony statute which is found at F.S. 61.08. The law provided for a new form of alimony called durational alimony, which gave the courts the ability to compromise between bridge the gap or rehabilitative alimony (generally 1-4 years) and permanent. As the name implies, the length of this alimony cannot exceed the duration of the marriage. Also, language was inserted into the existing alimony laws which affirmatively requires courts to determine an actual need for alimony and the ability to pay same before the court can address factors such as “the standard of living established during the marriage.”
Keep checking my blog as I’ll keep you posted as developments occur.