by Eddie Stephens and Allison Kapner
For the past two years, the Florida legislation has failed to pass alimony reform. In 2014 Governor Scott vetoed the legislation hours before it was to become law. In 2015 the legislation failed as the House and Senate could not agree on the appropriate version of the bill. So nothing has been done to date.
There is a strong argument for alimony reform due to disparate results caused by the amount of discretion provided to the Court. Many argue that this could be resolved by the implementation of reasonable guidelines similar to the way child support is determined.
It appears the alimony reform bill failed this time because of a disagreement about whether equal time sharing between divorcing parents and their children are preemptively in the children’s best interests. Arguments against the 50/50 presumption arise from the view point that each time sharing case should be tailored to what is in the child’s best interest, as opposed to presuming one time sharing is better than another as a starting point. Currently there is no presumption as to what percentage of time sharing should be a starting point.
The previously proposed legislation for the past two years had a retroactive application. This meant that parents who entered into an agreement a year ago could use the new law to renegotiate the rights that had just been resolved. Imagine making significant compromises to resolve a divorce and finalize it, only to have to defend litigation the following year trying to void the deal because of this retroactive application.
While the latest version of the alimony reform bill did not have a retroactive clause, it could still be applied to cases that have been decided by a judge or settled by parties in the past – it just could not be the sole reason for a modification.
It seems that alimony reform is on the horizon, and while the bills have not been able to pass in the past few years, the momentum keeps growing. All signs seem to indicate that these bills are not going away, and some alimony reform may make its way through.
Eddie Stephens is a partner at Ward Damon who is Board Certified in Family and Marital Law and has developed a successful family law practice focused on highly disputed divorces. Allison Kapner also practices family law and focuses on providing a high level of service to her clients. If you need help with marital or family matters, you may reach Eddie at EStephens@warddamon.com and Allison at AKapner@warddamon.com or call 561-842-3000.
That is great news Allison. Many in the legislative committee thought that reform was inevitable because of the strong tide pushing it and many reasoned if it is going to happen anyway we had better get control over it. The tide pushing it and the reason behind the tide were never alligned and as they learned as soon as a bill was proposed by them great changes would be made that they were not going to be happy with. If reform is inevitable then a decent bill results from pushback giving reason for negotiation where they would have some control over the outcome. It is most ironic that promoting a bill led to fights among the extremists many of whom had their own agenda. I am so disheartened by the direction family law has taken that I just worried about things that affected me this year.