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Legislature approves alimony reform

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Sen. Joe Gruters

Sen. Joe Gruters

Sen. Joe Gruters, the Sarasota Republican who has led the charge on alimony reform for the last three legislative sessions, described his current measure, SB 1416, succinctly during testimony in the Senate Rules Committee April 5.

“You’ll hear some opposition… but we used to have massive opposition from two completely separate sides on every single provision of this bill — the attorneys’ group and the reform group have agreed to every single thing,” Gruters said.

The measure to eliminate permanent alimony in Florida and replace it with durational alimony based on the length of the marriage now heads to Gov. DeSantis following a 102-12 vote in the Florida House.

The proposed reforms provide divorcing couples with more predictability and consistency by setting clear, definitive parameters for the courts when considering the amount and duration of alimony, according to Gruters.

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 back to the Florida Supreme Court’s 1992 decision in Pimm v. Pimm.

While there was some objection to the bill, it seemed to supersede party politics. Of the 12 no votes, four were Republican. Neither side of the aisle voiced opposition through questions or debate on the House floor.

The Bar’s Family Law Section supported the bill this year.

Last year, when both chambers passed SB 1796, Section Chair Phillip Wartenberg told the News that the legislation would retroactively upend existing agreements, spark bitter custody battles, and put children at risk.

“Last year’s version of this bill did contain unconstitutional retroactivity,” Wartenberg told the Senate Rules panel. “The provisions did not codify the longstanding case law of Pimm v. Pimm. This bill does. It codifies existing Supreme Court precedent for over 30 years. The section much prefers that to an alternative like we saw last year when we fought very strenuously for a veto.”

Wartenberg said the section along with members from the Florida Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers have been in discussion with Sen. Gruters and other stakeholders to craft this legislation.

The two sides coming together was enough for Democratic Ranking Member Rep. Mike Gottlieb to rally many of his members to a yea vote.

Speaking in the House Judiciary Committee April 11, Gottlieb, a criminal defense attorney, read the language and agreed with Armstrong that this bill is not retroactive.

“Specifically, [the bill says] the court shall apply this section to all initial petitions for dissolution of marriage or support ending or filed after July 1, 2023,” Gottlieb said. “I like that the legislative intent has been specified today that it is not intended to be retroactive.”

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