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Alimony revamp off table this year

The Senate sponsor says its dead.

A proposed revamp of the state’s alimony laws is off the table for the 2020 Legislative Session, according to the Senate sponsor of the proposal.

While a similar House bill (HB 843) has been approved by two committees and is scheduled to go before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Sen. Kelli Stargel’s measure (SB 1832) never made it out of its first committee in the Senate.

“So at this point in the process, it would be near impossible to get that done this year. We’ll keep working on it for next year,” Stargel, a Lakeland Republican, told The News Service of Florida on Tuesday.

The proposals would create a formula for judges to use when setting alimony payments and do away with “permanent,” or lifetime, alimony.

The Florida Legislature has taken up proposals to revise or replace permanent alimony almost annually for several years. The last overhaul of the state’s alimony laws came in 2010. They were tweaked in 2011.

The 2020 effort would prioritize durational, or “bridge-the-gap,” alimony over long-term alimony and set a cap at half of the length of a couple’s marriage.

Reform backers say the current system creates a “culture of dependence” for those receiving it and a “life sentence” for payers. They claim the need for reform stems from the existence of “permanent alimony,” something that the Family Section of the Florida Bar says does not exist.

The proposal would also set equal time-sharing for parents as the standard for courts.

The Family Section of the Florida Bar has been the major force opposing the bill, with Chair Amy Hamlin asserting that “permanent alimony” doesn’t exist. The group also argues the time-sharing provision is a one-size-fits-all standard that doesn’t fit many families.

The contentious dialogue surrounding the reform bills is nothing new. Past efforts have drawn heated debate in the Legislature and among interest groups on both sides. Still, the Legislature has passed alimony bills in recent years only for them to die on the Governor’s desk. 

Former Gov. Rick Scott, who is now a U.S. Senator, twice vetoed alimony proposals.

In his second veto in 2016, Scott blamed an even more-contentious child custody component included in that year’s version. In 2013, Scott vetoed a different version, objecting that alimony changes could have applied retroactively.

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Reporters Scott Powers and Drew Wilson contributed to this post. Republished with permission.

The News Service of Florida provides journalists, lobbyists, government officials and other civic leaders with comprehensive, objective information about the activities of state government year-round.

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