Permanent alimony is no more in Florida.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation (SB 1416) that overhauls divorce law in Florida. The most notable change eliminates the possibility of divorced couples remaining eternally tied together financially.
The measure was among the last items passed by the Legislature awaiting action by the Governor. It will go into effect July 1, a day after DeSantis signed it.
The signing ends years of efforts to reform the divorce process in Florida. Sen. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican, had sponsored the Senate bill. Rep. John Temple, a Wildwood Republican, championed the legislation in the House.
Florida Family Fairness led a petition campaign encouraging backers of the bill to reach out to DeSantis.
“This bill allows both parties to retire with dignity, while giving the courts discretion to protect vulnerable alimony recipients,” read the petition. “There has never been a fairer and more balanced proposal to change Florida’s antiquated alimony laws.”
But any proposed changes to alimony have also drawn opposition for years. The First Wives Advocacy Group said the legislation puts women in a worse position in instances of divorce, and ultimately also hurts children impacted by the process.
“Our first concern is with the retroactive application of the bill. Our second concern is the lack of enforcement under the current law, and our third concern is that the bill has, in our opinion, been pushed through for a decade by a terror group,” said organization spokesperson Jan Killilea. “Women who have been critical of the alimony reform bill have been subjected to verbal attacks on social media.”
The organization expressed surprise and concern that DeSantis signed the bill.
“On behalf of the thousands of women who our group represents, we are very disappointed in the Governor’s decision to sign the alimony reform bill,” reads a statement released by Killilea. “We believe by signing it, he has put older women in a situation which will cause financial devastation. The so-called party of ‘family values’ has just contributed to erosion of the institution of marriage in Florida.”
Supporters of the bill say fear of retroactivity is misplaced, and that lawmakers made sure the legislative language would not impact existing divorce decrees and settled cases.
Divorce lawyers say in practical effect, the new law embeds in statute many changes that have unfolded slowly within courtrooms.
“We don’t expect the changes to alimony in Florida to have a profound effect on what we do at the DeWitt Law Firm,” said lawyer Moses DeWitt. “It’s simply going to codify a lot of what the case law already says. While there are some changes, I don’t think we will see a significant impact on the amount or length of most alimony awards. The changes likely won’t be as drastic as some think they are going to be.”
Concerns from women’s groups prompted DeSantis to veto a similar bill passed by the Legislature last year. Before DeSantis, Gov. Rick Scott also vetoed prior legislation dealing with the same subject.
Gruters believed lawmakers had finally found a space of compromise on the issue. The Family Law Section of the Florida Bar opposed last year’s legislation, but this year voiced support.
“I appreciate the Governor signing SB 1416 legislation into law. It’s long overdue and a win for Florida families,” Gruters said. “Special thanks to House sponsor Rep. John Temple and to (lawyers) Lisa Hurley and Nelson Diaz for your tireless work.”
Parties in negotiation said they landed in a place amenable to all engaged in the legal proceedings of divorce.
“The Family Law Section of The Florida Bar supported legislation to make commonsense modifications to Florida’s alimony laws this Session, including the elimination of permanent alimony and the preservation of the longstanding Pimm decision, which pertains to the effects of retirement on alimony awards,” reads a joint statement provided by Family Law Section Chair Sarah Kay and immediate Past Chair Philip Wartenberg.
“Importantly, and differentiating it from past legislation, this bill did not include provisions that would negatively impact existing alimony awards or otherwise be harmful to Florida’s families.”
The pair issued a statement after the bill’s signing praising DeSantis.
“We thank Governor DeSantis for signing legislation into law that provides for commonsense modifications to alimony, including the elimination of permanent alimony and the preservation of the longstanding Pimm decision, which pertains to the effects of retirement on alimony awards,” Kay and Wartenberg said.
“Importantly, the section was grateful to have worked with the sponsors of this legislation during the 2023 session to ensure it would not negatively impact existing alimony awards or otherwise be harmful to Florida’s families.”