Critics are going for round two of reform after Governor Scott vetoed the bill last spring. Lawmakers who see permanent alimony as the vestige of an outdated society are hoping to put a new bill in front of the legislation by 2014.
At this point, most lawmakers can agree that permanent alimony is more unreasonable than not. For the paying spouse, it can be a tremendous, lifelong financial obstacle with the potential to hinder one's ability to retire or even remarry. Furthermore, it's founded on old-fashioned values that no longer reflect the realities of the modern family - values that operate on the assumption that women have no "livable" earning potential in the workforce.
The bill passed by last year's legislature placed ceilings on alimony payments that were determined by marriage length and spousal income and allowed for renegotiation in the event of retirement or job loss. There was also a retroactivity provision that permitted the paying spouse to reopen his or her divorce case and petition for retroactive changes to the alimony settlement. Arguably the most controversial aspect of the bill, the retroactivity provision was by Governor Scott as grounds for a veto.
This time around, reformers have decided to forgo the retroactivity provision with the hope of getting a new bill passed. These are the key changes that reformers are now trying to instate:
- Reducing alimony payments when the paying spouse retires.
- Instituting automatic payment cuts if the paying spouse loses a job or has a salary reduction.
- Changing how alimony is calculated in the first place
- Creating new guidelines for awarding child custody
Child custody is the new issue that threatens to complicate negotiations. The vetoed bill also specified that child custody would be automatically split 50/50 between both parents barring any major issues. Critics believe this provision has the potential to place children in dangerous situations, as well as complicate custody battles and child support payments, which are typically determined by the time spent at either parent's home.
The Family Law Section of the Florida Bar plans to meet on September 28th to vote on a unified set of principles that would inform any new legislation. Florida is one of only a handful of states that still has permanent alimony.