Governor Rick Scott vetoed the proposed Alimony Bill, SB718, last night.  The Legislature, however, could vote to override the Governor’s veto or attach portions of the bill to other proposed bills.  The House and Senate remain in session until Friday afternoon, marking the deadline for any further action on the Bill in the 2013 Legislative session.  Check back for updates on this developing story.

The bill would have taken effect on July 1, 2013 resulting in substantial changes in family law, including significant issues concerning alimony and shared parenting.

SB 718 & Alimony

By way of example, the burden of proof for an award of alimony would have shifted to the person seeking alimony, by a showing of his/her need and the other person’s ability to pay.  Additionally, the bill would have removed the standard of living as a consideration for determining whether alimony should or should not be awarded.  It also created the presumption that each party’s standard of living would be lower than when the marriage was intact.  The standard of living, however, remained a factor in which the court would consider in determining the amount to be awarded, if alimony was found to be appropriate.

One of the issues the Governor cited to involved the right to seek modification and/or termination of alimony awards entered into by agreement of the parties prior to the bill’s July 1, 2013 effective date.  The right to do so, however, applied to marriages that were 15 or less years and where the alimony award was longer than that of the marriage.  Although there were certain exceptions, those exceptions had to be proven by clear and convincing evidence.  Any agreements or orders that specifically waived the right to modification of alimony were expressly excluded from modification under the new bill.

Also, a very contentious issue was the deletion of “permanent periodic alimony” (the type of alimony that continues until death, remarriage or a relationship with a substantial financial contributor).  Permanent alimony in the bill would be deleted and the types remaining would be Bridge the Gap Alimony (which can be no more than two years and is non-modifiable); Rehabilitative alimony (requiring a specific and defined plan for redevelopment of skills); and Durational alimony (which could not exceed 50% of the length of the marriage, unless a preponderance of the evidence is shown justifying the need for a longer award).

Controversial Alimony Bill

The most controversial issue concerning parenting is that the bill would have created the presumption that 50/50 timesharing would be in the best interest of any minor child in a divorce, unless proven otherwise.   Under the current law, there exists no presumption for or against the percentage of timesharing awarded to each party, but the standard of the best interests of the child remains the foremost consideration.

These and many more changes under the new bill would have resulted in a significant overhaul to family law.   Although the provisions set forth in the bill addressed many issues that are currently litigated in Florida, those provisions, as in most laws, would have likely created some ambiguity and need for interpretation by the courts.

If the Senate does not overturn the Governor’s veto, the issues addressed therein are sure to return for consideration in the years to come.  It was just 2012 Legislative session  that some of these issues were already put to a bill that also failed.  In fact, that bill never made it to the Governor.

Family law encompasses extraordinary dynamics and as each case demands special consideration.