The Tampa Bay Times reported that on May 1, 2013, Governor Rick Scott vetoed a controversial bill to end permanent alimony related to divorce cases in the state of Florida. In his veto letter to President Don Gaetz of the Florida Senate, Scott explained that he opposed modification of existing alimony law because it would have caused disruption for families. Scott also indicated that he opposed this legislation since it would be applied retroactively and could lead to “unfair, unanticipated results.”
What the bill would have done:
Modification of current divorce law would have made it more difficult for the receiving spouse to collect alimony if a marriage lasted less than twelve years. Additionally, the bill presumed that, in a divorce, both parents would have equal custody of their children. In April 2013, the bill (“SB 718”) passed the Senate by a 29-11 vote and the House with an 85-31 vote, margins that made an attempted veto override unlikely in the final two days of session as it would require two-thirds approval.
Comments on Scott’s veto:
Carin Porras, who heads the Florida Bar Association’s Family Law Section, feels that the governor’s veto of SB 718 was “courageous” and indicated that many women would have suffered financially if their previous alimony agreement was subject to modification.
Barbara DeVane, who represents the National Organization of Women, also praised Scott’s veto. She explained that the bill would have led to further litigation as many men would likely attempt to reduce their existing support contracts and that many women would have suffered the consequences.
At the same time, Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, who was in favor of the bill, found Scott’s veto to be disappointing. He further explained that Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, who sponsored the bill, had no idea that a veto might be coming. Lee now feels that more collaboration is needed when such laws become part of the legislative process.
Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, who opposed the bill, said that the governor made a politically wise decision. He explained that Scott has been making an ongoing effort to reach out to women, who frequently are the majority of voters in Florida’s statewide elections.
The consensus on this subject is that the veto isn’t the end of the story. A similar bill could possibly be enacted into law within the next several years. Please let us know how we may assist you as you plan for the future. Give us a call: 727-726-3600.