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After gubernatorial veto, permanent alimony continues in Florida

Governor Rick Scott made headlines across Florida earlier this month when he vetoed Senate Bill 718, which was principally designed to eliminate permanent alimony here in the Sunshine State.

For those unfamiliar with the concept for permanent alimony, it essentially involves a person being ordered by a court of law to make lifetime alimony payments to their ex-spouse as part of the divorce. Of course, the more assets a former spouse has, the more expensive this becomes.

The primary arguments against permanent alimony -- which has now been eliminated in four states -- have always been that it is both unfair and perhaps even antiquated. In other words, it was born out of the idea that all women are homemakers with limited earning prospects and require ongoing support, a concept that really has lost all significance in today's modern working world.

Besides eliminating permanent alimony, SB 718 would have introduced some of the other following changes:

  • In short-term marriages (i.e., less than 11 years), the assumption would be no alimony; however, if alimony was awarded, it could not be more than 25 percent of the former spouse's gross income 
  • In medium-term marriages (i.e., between 11 and 20 years), there would be no assumption regarding alimony; however, if alimony was awarded, it could not be more than 35 percent of the former spouse's gross income 
  • In long-term marriages (i.e., over 20 years), the assumption would be alimony; however, it could not be more than 38 percent of the former spouse's gross income 
  • Alimony payments would be limited to one-half of the length of the marriage

Gov. Scott's decision to veto SB 718 came as something of a shock to state legislators who passed it by fairly wide bi-partisan margins (85-31 in the House; 29-11 in the Senate).

However, the governor said current state law already had adequate protections in place concerning alimony, and that he did not agree with SB 718's retroactive adjustment of alimony.

"[I cannot] support this legislation because it applies retroactively and thus tampers with the settled economic expectations of many Floridians who have experienced divorce," he wrote. "The retroactive adjustment of alimony could result in unfair, unanticipated results."

It is worth noting that legal experts believe that the abolishment of permanent alimony will come before state lawmakers again.

"My assumption is, you haven't heard the last of it," said one attorney. "Most family law practitioners will agree that uniformity in determination of alimony is a good thing."

If you would like to learn more about the divorce process, including property division or alimony, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional.

Source: Fox News, "Florida Gov. Scott vetoes bill that would end permanent alimony in state," May 2, 2013

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