Florida Senate Bill 1796 Could End Permanent Alimony
Understanding Senate Bill 1796
Florida Senate Bill 1796: Dissolution of Marriage was recently passed 74-42 by the Florida House of Representatives. This bill seeks to revise many of Florida's divorce laws and, in particular, is heavily focused on changing alimony laws and how courts make alimony determinations. Additionally, this bill places significant limits on alimony, including stating that alimony may not be awarded at all in cases where the marriage lasted less than three years.
According to this bill, durational alimony should not exceed:
- 50 percent of the length of a marriage lasting between 3 and 10 years
- 60 percent of the length of a marriage lasting between 10 and 20 years
- 75 percent of the length of a marriage lasting 20 years or longer
However, according to the bill, if the person receiving alimony "is either permanently mentally or physically disabled and unable to provide for his or her own support […] or is the full-time in-home caregiver to a fully and permanently mentally or physically disabled child who is common to the parties, the court may extend durational alimony beyond the thresholds."
This bill is currently awaiting approval by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. If DeSantis signs off on this bill, it will go into effect and become law on July 1, 2022.
Many citizens and organizations are calling on Governor DeSantis to veto the bill. Keep reading to find out why.
Tens of Thousands of Cases Could Be Reopened
Many women (calling themselves the "First Wives") are advocating against this bill, some of whom have reported being harassed, threatened, and physically assaulted due to speaking out against Senate Bill 1796. Opponents of the bill cite many problems with the proposed alimony limitations and the unfair burden on those who receive alimony. Also in opposition to this bill is the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar Association.
According to Heather L. Apicella, chair of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar, this bill has many issues, and it "sets a dangerous precedent for contractural agreements in Florida." One such problem is that, if signed into law, it will take retroactive effect, impacting existing and pending alimony awards. Consequently, tens of thousands of alimony cases may be reopened. This throws thousands of Floridians into uncertainty regarding their financial stability.
Some of these issues, as cited by Apicella, include:
- Prolonged litigation
- Increased divorce costs
- A backlog of cases in the family court system
Apicella also points out that Senate Bill 1796 also "erases equitability and setups a system that heavily favors one party, while damaging the other unnecessarily."
Will This Bill Affect Me?
Understandably, many people are concerned about this bill and its impact on their alimony orders, especially those awarded permanent alimony. Permanent alimony is typically awarded in cases where the supported spouse is unable to become self-supporting and needs spousal maintenance to stay financially stable. Someone may be unable to reach financial independence post-divorce for many reasons, including having given up their career to take care of the home and children or divorcing later in life and are no longer able to find adequate employment.
Regardless of why someone is awarded permanent or even long-term alimony, this bill threatens the financial security of thousands of women across Florida. If you are worried that this bill will affect your alimony situation, reach out to our law firm. Attorney Sara Boeller understands how scary this bill is and the uncertainty you likely are feeling. Send us a message online to schedule a consultation.