Lawmakers Begin Considering Legislation (SB 1922
& HB 1559) to End Permanent Alimony in Florida
Lawmakers in 44 states have enacted legislation to modernize alimony laws. Under legislation to modernize Florida’s approach proposed by State Sen. Joe Gruters, of Sarasota, and State Rep. Anthony Rodriguez, of Miami, Florida would become the 45th state to put an end to perpetual alimony awards making the system based on fairness for all parties. Lawmakers this week began considering the bills in legislative committees.
“The bill I am sponsoring was very carefully crafted to get to one goal: reduce litigation so that Florida families have more money left over after a divorce to go back to their lives and businesses,” Sen. Joe Gruters of Sarasota said to members of the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee. “Today, the only winners after a divorce are the divorce lawyers. So, the general ethos of this bill is to reduce litigation, reduce family fighting, and protect Florida families from having to deplete their assets and money to pay for a divorce.”
On calling for the modernization of the state’s alimony laws, the bill’s sponsors note how Florida has become a leading state for providing increased economic opportunity.
For example, data for 2019 from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed Florida’s women’s-to-men’s earnings ratio stood at 85.1 percent, higher than the nationwide ratio of 81.5 percent.
This has happened as more women have become the primary wage earner in American households. The Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor Women in 2017 noted how the percent of households with children under 18 in which mothers are equal, primary, or sole earners grew to 40.4 percent in 2017 from 15.6 percent in 1970.
“It’s time to retire Florida’s antiquated alimony policies to reflect our modern reality. Both women and men work hard to provide for their families, with some women as the family’s main bread winner” Rep. Anthony Rodriguez said as he presented the reform measure to the Florida House Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee. “In fact, trends show that an increasing number of alimony payors are women. When a marriage ends, each person involved deserves respect and closure. As they set their lives off in different directions, our proposed legislation helps them transition toward independence and self-sufficiency.”
The proposal, which has strong backing from Florida Family Fairness, is designed to help people like Deborah Favata-Shultz, a physician from Apollo Beach, who traveled to Tallahassee to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of the Gruters/Rodriguez proposal to end eternal alimony.
She noted how Florida’s law is out of step with the rest of the country and how it allowed her former husband to abuse the system.
Dr. Favata-Shultz, who in prior years has testified before the Florida legislature in support of alimony reform, is now 68 years old and is living with her daughter. She is working well into her retirement age to pay alimony to her ex-husband.
“My ex-husband physically and mentally abused me and my children during our marriage, however, I am the one who was punished daily by Florida’s broken alimony laws,” Favata-Shultz said. “My son to this day bears the scars mentally and physically of what his father did to us while my ex-husband is enjoying his golden years at my expense.”
In her testimony the following day before House members, Natalie Willis, a medical doctor from South Florida who specializes in obstetrics, shared a similar story and underscored how the bill would make “alimony what it should be: a bridge to independence.”
“I was in a bad marriage, and the reasons for the divorce were only worsened by the divorce itself. We divided our assets 50/50, and then I was ordered to pay $10,000 a month in permanent periodic alimony. For life,” Willis told House members. “The current antiquated alimony laws put two people who made a decision to not be together, tied together in an adversarial system for life.”
Florida Family Fairness is a volunteer-run organization, building upon our 2020 effort to turn our excellent alimony-reform bill into law. Learn more about the group at: https://www.floridafamilyfairness.org.
“Predictability and consistency will help Florida’s families by effectuating settlements and avoiding prolonged and expensive litigation,” added Marc Johnson, co-founder of Larson Johnson, P.L. and Chairman of Florida Family Fairness urging Floridians to join the growing reform effort.
Ends Permanent Alimony
- Modernizes divorce law and streamlines the process to save families from protracted adversarial litigation and financial ruin.
Establishes Gender-Neutral Approach
- Reflects increased earning power of women as more women earn college degrees and become primary breadwinners, alimony reform is an issue of fairness, not gender.
- Creates a presumption that equal timesharing is in the best interests of children common to the marriage. Allows both parents equal access to children’s records and information.
- Creates a presumption that the marital lifestyle will be reduced when the same income is supporting two households, post-separation, and divorce.
- Allows the parties to bifurcate the divorce from the property award (allows the parties to remarry and permits finality for families and children)
Provides for Fair and Responsible Support That is Predictable, Consistent, and Stable
- Establishes clear guidelines for setting the maximum duration and amount of alimony to provide predictability and consistency to alimony awards statewide, as follows:
Duration: Maximum of 50% of the length of the marriage
Amount: Maximum of 25% of the differential of net monthly incomes
- Allows alimony recipient to choose to secure alimony award and own the life insurance policy and requiring the payor to cooperate in securing policy.
- Modifies or terminates alimony upon proof of a recipient’s supportive relationship, with a look-back provision.
- Exempts a new spouse’s assets and income from alimony payor’s obligation.
Protects Judicial Discretion While Ensuring the Right to Retire
- Provides for the termination of alimony at full Social Security retirement age or the customary age for a given profession.
- The court would determine that earlier age to be reasonable and termination would not leave the alimony recipient in peril of poverty.
- The court has discretion to continue alimony beyond retirement if the recipient is in peril of poverty if the recipient has not reached Social Security retirement age and has not received alimony for 50% of the duration of the marriage.