Gov. DeSantis annuls alimony bill

Retroactively changing people's divorce agreements is unconstitutional, DeSantis says.

After years of unsuccessful negotiations to modify Florida’s divorce laws, Gov. Ron DeSantis has vetoed the Republican-led Legislature’s latest effort to end permanent alimony.

With DeSantis’ veto on Friday, the measure (SB 1796) marks the third proposal vetoed by a Florida Republican Governor in the last decade. Despite most Republicans coming together in support of this year’s package after repeated unsuccessful attempts to pass similar alimony reform measures, DeSantis in his veto letter wrote that the Legislature’s proposal is unconstitutional.

“If (SB 1796) were to become law and be given retroactive effect as the Legislature intends, it would unconstitutionally impair vested rights under certain preexisting marital settlement agreements,” DeSantis wrote in his veto letter.

The bill, which bill sponsor and Sarasota Republican Sen. Joe Gruters promoted as an improvement on past efforts, would have repealed court-ordered permanent alimony — leaving bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative and durational alimony for all divorces going forward. Fort Myers Republican Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka shepherded the legislation through the House.

“Divorce is devastating to everyone, but the process is the most devastating to the families involved,” Gruters said in a statement to Florida Politics. “The only winners are the attorneys and professionals who profit out of the misery of others. As a CPA, I see it play out all the time and the process needs to be fixed so families keep more of the assets that they had at the beginning of the process.”

“Very disappointed in the veto, especially after having 35 meetings with both sides and having the fairest and best alimony bill that has been presented and voted on by the legislature in over 10 years,” he continued.

Two measures written in the legislation were the subject of the bulk of debate during this year’s Legislative Session: a 50-50 time-share presumption and the elimination of permanent alimony on previous, modifiable agreements.

Before and after the Legislature passed the measure near party lines in March, activists on both sides of the issue lobbied lawmakers and DeSantis to torpedo the legislation.

In vetoing the bill, DeSantis sided with the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar, which implored the Governor to nix the bill over the controversial provisions.

The section’s chair, Philip Wartenberg, and its immediate past chair, Heather Apicella, released a joint statement thanking DeSantis for the veto. Divorce and the subsequent custody issues are very traumatic for all involved, they said.

“From the very beginning of the 2022 Legislative Session, we voiced concerns over the retroactive impact of Senate Bill 1796. If signed into law, this legislation would have upended thousands upon thousands of settlements, backlogging the courts and throwing many Floridians’ lives into turmoil,” they continued. “We thank Governor Ron DeSantis for vetoing this measure and for understanding the bad precedent the retroactivity of the bill would have set for settled contracts in the state of Florida.”

The bill would have established an equal time-sharing presumption in custody disputes. Critics from across the aisle of the measure argued the presumption is not in the best interest of the child. Rep. Emily Slosberg-King, a Palm Beach Democrat and family law lawyer, said the presumption will create “a procedural legal hurdle for self-represented litigants to overcome.”

However, supporters of the equal time-sharing presumption said it would just provide equal footing for parents who walk into the courtroom.

Over the course of its committee hearings, opponents argued cutting permanent alimony would leave individuals caring for children in compromising positions. Additionally, they argued the legislation only seeks to benefit the primary breadwinner, putting the other individual at an unfair disadvantage.

The legislation also would remove the court’s ability to consider adultery of either spouse in determining the amount of an alimony award.

The bill was amended several times throughout the legislative process.

One overhaul amendment filed by Gruters and approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee altered the legislation to provide parameters to the court to make determinations regarding the amount and duration of alimony.

The amendment also would allow alimony payers to ramp down payments if seeking to retire, while protecting those deemed vulnerable recipients.

The amendment would require the obligor to file a notice of retirement and intent to terminate alimony with the court and recipient. If the payor continues working and earns income despite reaching retirement age, alimony payments would continue until he or she actually retires and reduces active income by 50% of pre-retirement levels, according to the amendment.

However, that amendment did draw criticism. Family law lawyer Shannon Novey, representing the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, said it walked back what was progress on this year’s legislation. She said the retirement provisions speak to old agreements, “modifying those agreements retroactively.”

Currently, long-term alimony can be modified at a judge’s discretion. A 1992 Florida Supreme Court ruling found that retirement counts as a change in circumstances that can modify alimony.

___

Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics contributed to this report.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


18 comments

  • Mitchell McCune

    June 24, 2022 at 5:18 pm

    A government entity, ANY government entity being involved in marriage or divorce in ANY way may or may not be Constitutional… it is however completely oppressive and immoral. The BOOT of government on the neck of the alimony payer. Shame on you DeSantis… and I’m a great admirer and supporter of your policies. Alimony is nothing more than legalized, state forced slavery and indentured servitude. You can say anything you want to justify your position and your veto, but it doesn’t change the truth of it.

  • Nevada Bedwell

    June 24, 2022 at 6:13 pm

    This is absolutely and total communism. The incoming FLS of the bar is a failed magistrate who could not even make A real judge. The Bar OWNS the republicans! The thing is must people don’t understand that. The Bar owned Rick Scott and the bar owns Desantis now. The Bar had direct communication with desantis and this was already a done deal 3 months ago. There is just to much money in litigation and the bar spent millions bribing him and scott and a heard of others. There are so many including so many veterans that have killed themselves in Florida because of the corrupt family courts in Florida. I personally got out. I had a shotgun wrapped around my lips when Scott vetoed it last time. I was lucky. I got help and I left the country after i was sentenced to life time alimony , and ex got 1/2 of my military pension on top. I had nothing left. You have 3 choices in Florida. You can leave the country, you can be a slave on the Florida bar and now deaantis new plantation for slaves or you can kill yourself. Desantis is a liberal attorney who cares nothing about children or families. He tried to use his “ im a great father “ but he is just a child abuser and hates veterans because he was taught in his liberal schools that is the way it should be. Attorneys fees ! Corrupt judges kickbacks and evil is what desantis is all about. Don’t be fooled by this man he is a liar and woke liberal. He likes to use things like the Disney dispute to make himself look good but he is a 🐍

  • Susan Wieland

    June 24, 2022 at 7:45 pm

    Thank you Michelle!
    And yes, shame on you Governor Desantis.
    You are a liar as well. You said if an alimony reform bill was brought to your desk, that you would sign it. And then you waited until the last minute to veto it.
    You are the same as all the other politicians. On the take. I will never vote for you again, and I will tell everyone how I feel.

  • Dan Walsh

    June 25, 2022 at 8:06 am

    1st off DeSantis is a lawyer. He does not work for the majority nor the good of the people. He works for the Florida Bar and the “Florida Bar Foundation” and answers to the ABA, as all attorneys and Judges do. These nonprofit entities are structured as nothing more than a “Racketeering Enterprise(s)”. All one needs to do is connect the dots. This is how they are able to generate revenue and put profit over people, including children. There is a solution, dismantle the Racketeering Enterprise.

  • Charlotte Greenbarg

    June 25, 2022 at 8:15 am

    Just amazed at the people commenting don’t understand that you can’t retroactively do what the bill mandated. The legislature need to get their act together and write a bill that makes sense

  • Harold Finch

    June 25, 2022 at 9:05 am

    Just one more good reason not to vote for him!!

  • Natalie Willis

    June 25, 2022 at 2:24 pm

    Interesting that 3 of Joe Gruters ( A Trump reelection supporter) bills were vetoed in 1 day .
    Is Desantis playing avenge politics?
    Also interesting that Desantis put in writing that he vetoed due to unconstitutionality; 2 separate analysis , one by the Senate and the other by a comsititutional attorney which Desantis uses himself, found sb 1796 to NOT be unconditional.
    Does Desantis think everyone is stupid?
    I voted for Desantis the first time but no more.
    When one becomes an emporer instead of a Governor, it’s time to kick him out .
    And yes, I’m a registered Republican who is very disappointed.

  • R U

    June 26, 2022 at 7:31 am

    I oppose Desantis and Scott. The lawyers donations are worth more to him than justice. I will oppose him forever. I am a lifelong republican. And I am an indentured servant of my ex of 13 years.

  • AJM

    June 27, 2022 at 2:43 pm

    Bravo Gov DeSantis! It’s so very telling that you made the correct decision when the opposition comments mention suicide, slavery and communism. The bottom line here was this bill would have been retroactive and undone thousands of previously negotiated or tried by trial judgments. Any future attempts to overhaul alimony must not be retroactive.

  • Matthew J Lorentz

    June 27, 2022 at 4:11 pm

    Is thIs who we want for our next President / not anymore !

  • Luis Muñoz

    June 27, 2022 at 7:49 pm

    I was very fortunate that my permanent alimony nightmare lasted only 8 years. One child and between alimony and child support I was ripped off to the tune of $986.00 BI-WEEKLY. Yes, I said bi-weekly. I would have to beg for overtime just to be able to eat and live indoors.
    She ran off and got re-married in Las Vegas, thinking she would not get caught by me.
    It still took three more years AFTER THE FACT to get my justice!!
    Family law is a huge racket in Florida. The lawyers become judges, then the judges go back to litigation and then they go back to the bench and the families get screwed.
    Motions, counter motions and lots of billable hours.
    My personal advice: DO NOT GET MARRIED OR DIVORCED IN THE STATE OF FLORIDA!!

    • Robert Sell

      June 29, 2022 at 6:27 pm

      Don’t get married in any state. A marriage license is a waiver of your Constitutional and human rights.

  • Robert Sell

    June 29, 2022 at 6:10 pm

    I believe marriage & divorce laws are a scam to benefit special interests and give those special interests criminal type access to the liberty and assets of individuals at the lowest point in their lives. As a lifelong conservative who believes in small government, I never voted for or supported Rick Scott again after his first veto of alimony reform and I will treat Ron DeSantis the same way. It is now obvious who owns him.

  • Sonia

    July 1, 2022 at 9:32 pm

    Thank you Governor DeSantis!
    Permanent alimony was in my divorce decree. My ex husband continued to make more money than me over the years after our 22 year marriage. I have continued to work making so much less . If this bill had passed I would have lost my cute but, very small home while he continued to live in his large home and vacation home. You are my hero!

    • JRyman

      July 5, 2022 at 10:39 am

      Ah, so you live on because you need to extort someone, not because you can’t actually earn money on your own. You are actual proof against alimony and marriage in general. People in the next generation will thank your part in destroying marriage in general.

  • Jack Evanecky

    July 1, 2022 at 11:26 pm

    What a weasel selling out all of the hard working men in Florida. Coward decision made Ron very disappointed no vote for me coming your way! Welcome back to the real world

  • JRyman

    July 5, 2022 at 10:36 am

    You know what? Keep this up, marriage numbers are already so low, you need actual government intervention to incentivize it. That way, more years down the line where women wanna marry and they can’t find a retard to get married to, people should just point at “permanent alimony” as to why they will never need to marry ever again.

  • Jerry Springer

    July 5, 2022 at 2:29 pm

    Hey Ronnie,
    Stupid comments like this will surely be the way to permanently not get re-elected! Try putting yourself in the shoes of a man that has worked all his life and now loses everything as he is nearing retirement age. Brilliant law isn’t it!

Comments are closed.


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