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Gov. DeSantis signs alimony reform measure

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Sen. Joe Gruters

Sen. Joe Gruters

Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, has banged the drum on alimony reform for years but admits when the measure first came across his desk, he wanted nothing to do with it. However, in his day job as a certified public accountant, he deals with divorce regularly.

When the Florida Senate voted 34-6 to approve SB 1416 on April 19, Gruters told his colleagues, “As a professional who deals with divorce on an ongoing basis you see how tough it is for families to go through this process.”

This year, Gov. Ron DeSantis agreed by signing the measure June 30, which provides divorcing couples with more predictability and consistency by setting clear, definitive parameters for the courts when considering the amount and duration of alimony. The bill became law on July 1.

SB 1416 was Gruters’ third attempt at passing alimony reform. In 2021, he unexpectedly withdrew his measure 10 days prior to the end of session following a fierce debate on the child-sharing provision in the bill.

Last year, Gruters filed SB 1796, which passed both chambers, but was later vetoed by the governor.

Gruters said following last year’s veto he was able to bring all groups together and hammer out a plan on all these issues and got every side to agree from top to bottom. He said he’s committed to finding finality in the process.

Following the governor’s signature, Gruters said this measure is long overdue.

“I appreciate the governor signing SB 1416 legislation into law,” Gruters said. “It’s a win for Florida families.”

The bill provides guidelines for the court to determine whether to reduce or terminate an award of alimony based on the retirement of a payor. The guidelines codify existing case law that dates to the Florida Supreme Court’s 1992 decision in Pimm v. Pimm.

Gruters said the new law shortens the clock on divorce and makes it more predictable by giving family court judges the room they need to make decisions.

One of the groups Gruters brought to the table was The Florida Bar’s Family Law Section, which opposed many of the other proposed reforms due to questions over retroactivity.

This year, the section along with the Florida Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers were steadfast in their support of the measure.

Through a statement following the bill signing, section Chair Sarah Kay and immediate Past Chair Phillip Wartenberg said the new law provides for commonsense modifications to alimony.

“We thank Governor DeSantis for signing legislation into law,” Kay and Wartenberg said. “Importantly, the section was grateful to have worked with the sponsors of this legislation during the 2023 session to ensure it would not negatively impact existing alimony awards or otherwise be harmful to Florida’s families.”

Moving forward was a key reason that House sponsor, Rep. John Paul Temple, R-Wildwood, took up the legislation. Temple said eliminating permanent alimony and replacing it with durational alimony was critical to the process.

“An award that is set for a set period instead of indefinitely allows the parties to properly plan for their finances and futures and gives a much-needed finality to the process,” Temple told the House Civil Justice Committee March 27.

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