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2022 Alimony Reform
Senate Bill 1796 and House Bill 1395

Lawmakers nationwide have enacted legislation to modernize alimony laws. Under the proposed legislation to modernize Florida’s approach proposed by State Sen. Joe Gruters, of Sarasota, and State Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, District 78, Florida will finally put an end to perpetual alimony awards and enact a system based on fairness for all parties.  Lawmakers in the House and Senate have considered and began legislating a real change for Florida's families.

“The bill I am sponsoring was very carefully crafted to get to one goal: reduce litigation so that Florida families have more money left over after a divorce to go back to their lives and businesses,” Sen. Joe Gruters of Sarasota said to members of the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee. “Today, the only winners after a divorce are the divorce lawyers. So, the general ethos of this bill is to reduce litigation, reduce family fighting, and protect Florida families from having to deplete their assets and money to pay for a divorce.”

Rep. Persons-Mulilcka presented HB1395 to the House Civil Justice and Property Rights Subcommittee on January 27, 2022, and explained that the goal of this reform bill is to create "predictability and uniformity" when a couple has to go through the divorce process. The system needs to be "fair and balanced," with the goal of predictability and fairness.  She explained that every dollar of the marital estate that is spent on divorce litigation equates to dollars that will not be available to support a needy spouse or children.

On calling for the modernization of the state’s alimony laws, the bill’s sponsors note how Florida has become a leading state for providing increased economic opportunity.

For example, data for 2019 from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed Florida’s women’s-to-men’s earnings ratio stood at 85.1 percent, higher than the nationwide ratio of 81.5 percent.

 

This has happened as more women have become the primary wage earner in American households. The Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor Women in 2017 noted how the percent of households with children under 18 in which mothers are equal, primary, or sole earners grew to 40.4 percent in 2017 from 15.6 percent in 1970.

The proposal, which has strong backing from Florida Family Fairness, is designed to help people like Deborah Favata-Shultz, a physician from Apollo Beach, who traveled to Tallahassee during the 2021 session to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of the proposal to end eternal alimony. She noted how Florida’s law is out of step with the rest of the country and how it allowed her former husband to abuse the system.

Dr. Favata-Shultz, who in prior years has testified before the Florida legislature in support of alimony reform, is now 68 years old and is living with her daughter. She is working well into her retirement age to pay alimony to her ex-husband.

“My ex-husband physically and mentally abused me and my children during our marriage, however, I am the one who was punished daily by Florida’s broken alimony laws,” Favata-Shultz said. “My son to this day bears the scars mentally and physically of what his father did to us while my ex-husband is enjoying his golden years at my expense.”

 

In testimony during the 2021 legislative session before House members, Natalie Willis, a medical doctor from South Florida who specializes in obstetrics, shared a similar story and underscored how the bill would make “alimony what it should be: a bridge to independence.”

“I was in a bad marriage, and the reasons for the divorce were only worsened by the divorce itself. We divided our assets 50/50, and then I was ordered to pay $10,000 a month in permanent periodic alimony.  For life,” Willis told House members. “The current antiquated alimony laws put two people who made a decision to not be together, tied together in an adversarial system for life.” 

 

Florida Family Fairness is a volunteer-run organization, building upon our 2020 and 2021 efforts to turn our excellent alimony-reform bill into law. Learn more about the group at: https://www.floridafamilyfairness.org.

 

“Predictability and consistency will help Florida’s families by effectuating settlements and avoiding prolonged and expensive litigation,” added Marc Johnson, co-founder of Larson Johnson, P.L. and Chairman of Florida Family Fairness urging Floridians to join the growing reform effort.

Learn more about SB 1796 and HB 1395:

 

2022 Florida Alimony Modernization

(SB 1796 & HB 1395)

By Sen. Joe Gruters & Rep. Persons-Mulicka

 

Ends Permanent Alimony

  • Modernizes divorce law and streamlines the process to save families from protracted adversarial litigation and financial ruin.
     

Establishes Gender-Neutral Approach

  • Reflects increased earning power of women as more women earn college degrees and become primary breadwinners, alimony reform is an issue of fairness, not gender.

  • HB 1395 creates a presumption that equal timesharing is in the best interests of children common to the marriage. Allows both parents equal access to children’s records and information.

  • Creates a presumption that the marital lifestyle will be reduced when the same income is supporting two households, post-separation, and divorce.

  • Allows the parties to bifurcate the divorce from the property award (allows the parties to remarry and permits finality for families and children)
     

Provides for Fair and Responsible Support That is Predictable, Consistent, Fair and Balanced

  • Establishes clear guidelines for setting the maximum duration and amount of alimony to provide predictability and consistency to alimony awards statewide, as follows:
     

Duration: No durational alimony for marriages of 0-3 years, with a maximum duration of 50% of the length of the marriage for marriages 0-10 years, 60% for marriages between 10 and 20 years, and 75% for marriages of 20+ years.

Amount: Reasonable need, with a maximum of 35% of the differential of net monthly incomes
 

  • Allows alimony recipient to choose to secure alimony award and own the life insurance policy and requiring the payor to cooperate in securing policy.

  • Modifies or terminates alimony upon proof of a recipient’s supportive relationship, with a 180-day look-back provision.

  • Exempts a new spouse’s assets and income from alimony payor’s obligation.

Protects Judicial Discretion While Ensuring the Right to Retire

  • Provides for the termination of alimony upon retirement, at a reasonable age for the obligor's profession.

  • The court would determine that earlier age to be reasonable and termination would not leave the alimony recipient in peril of poverty.

  • The court has discretion to continue alimony beyond retirement with limited safeguards, if the recipient has not reached Social Security retirement age and has not received alimony for the durational limitations based upon the length of the marriage.