The Florida Legislature appears to be considering another attempt at reforming alimony in addition to a proposed changes to child custody and timesharing law. There have been annual attempts since 2012, all of which ended in failure. The last time Florida’s alimony laws, Florida Statutes 61.08 et al., it was 2010. The statute was tweaked again in 2011.
Most every year since then the Legislature has introduced bills designed to revise or overhaul the alimony system in one way or another. These efforts were almost successful in 2016 when a bill was passed by both the State Senate and House of Representatives, but it was eventually vetoed by Governor Scott.
No alimony bill has been filed yet for the 2020 Florida Legislative Session. But on Thursday last week, the House Civil Justice Subcommittee held a workshop along with a pamphlet to consider crafting Florida alimony reform legislation for 2020. Proponents of reform call permanent alimony a “life sentence” while opponents argue that the concept of alimony is important and often misconstrued. Florida is one of only seven states that authorize permanent alimony, which is perhaps why the issue comes up repeatedly.
Proponents of alimony reform efforts charge that it creates a “culture of dependence” for recipients and a “life sentence” for those who pay it. A spokesperson further argued that Florida guidelines for awarding alimony are vague and are interpreted differently depending on what area of the state you are in or even which judge decides your case. The lack of consistency even in the same areas of the state can be puzzling to some.
Opponents of alimony reform disagree. They argue that alimony serves an important economic function and that the allegations of unequal application are exaggerated. Florida’s alimony laws set a guideline for judges to follow that they can adapt to fit the specific facts and circumstances of each case. They are only guidelines for the judge, however, not a mathematical equation.
There are horror stories on both sides of the issue, no doubt. Hopefully the Legislature understands how sensitive this issue is and takes the time to listen carefully to both sides before even attempting to craft changes to Florida’s alimony laws.