A bill that would end permanent alimony advanced in front of a Senate committee, bringing Florida closer to aligning with most other states’ divorce laws when it comes to permanent spousal support.
It’s heading to the Senate floor next.
Alimony reform has been discussed in the Legislature for more than 10 years. Republican Sen. Joe Gruters’ first committee stop for his bill (SB 1416) this Session made it seem like most of the objections to his previous efforts have been smoothed out.
The bill no longer will affect existing alimony agreements, as previous legislation would have, Gruters said. The 23-page bill is the result of comprehensive work with all stakeholders, he declared. And the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar, which had been opposed to previous reform efforts, is on board this year.
But a parade of women came before the Senate Rules Committee to warn about the effect the legislation would have on them.
No one consulted with her group before writing the bill, said Camille Fiveash. She said she represents the 3,000-member First Wives Advocacy Group, most of them Republican women.
“Did our Governor not make it clear when he said, ‘Don’t bring back a retroactive or unconstitutional bill’?” she said. “That’s what this is. It’s retroactive.”
Democratic Sen. Lori Berman and Republican Sen. Clay Yarborough voted against the legislation.
Last year, the bill passed in both the House and the Senate. But at the finish line, Gov. Ron. DeSantis vetoed it. Last year’s legislation would have upended agreements made in past years.
Gruters said, however, that unmodifiable agreements can’t be modified, unlike past year’s legislative efforts. All this bill does is firm up existing case law, he said.
“If it’s an unmodifiable agreement, you still can’t modify it,” he said.
So far, identical legislation (HB 1409) that Republican Rep. John Temple of Wildwood has filed, doesn’t seem to be advancing as quickly, though. It has received one subcommittee nod and must get another, in the House Judiciary Committee, before a full House vote.
Updated to reflect the House bill needs one more committee approval.