Governor DeSantis Vetoes Another Attempt at Alimony Reform
Alimony reform groups have been trying for years to push through a revamp of alimony laws. Most notably, proposed amendments have included the elimination of permanent alimony, a more defined and consistent way to calculate alimony, and tweaks to other highly debated provisions in the current law. Those other tweaks include prohibitions on receiving alimony where the individual lives in a “supportive relationship” (a relationship that mimics an intact marriage). There is also an effort to protect potential alimony payors that are retired or on the verge of retirement.
One key problem the proponents of change have run into are proposals that retroactively modify the rights of people that have previously entered into alimony settlement agreements as part of a past divorce. Prior versions of the proposed bill in years past have contained those proposals that modify existing marital contracts (referred to as Marital Settlement Agreements). Both Florida and US Constitutions prohibit a provision that limits previous contracts and rights.
A provision in the Florida Constitution provides the following:
SECTION 10. Prohibited laws. —No bill of attainder, ex post facto law or law impairing the obligation of contracts shall be passed.
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A provision in the US Constitution is similar in its effect:
No Bill of Attainder or ex-post facto Law will be passed.
The key term used in constitutional law is the phrase “Bill of Attainder.” Any new law that changes or eliminates the rights of people under past agreements or contracts is called a Bill of Attainder and is considered unconstitutional under both federal and Florida law.
While past attempts at modifying Florida law have contained certain controversial provisions, one of the points that caused them to fail repeatedly has been the attempt to incorporate a bill of attainder – in the form of language that modifies prior Marital Settlement Agreements that are already in force. That is the main issue that caused this year’s effort to fail.
Governor Desantis signed an official veto of Senate Bill 1796 yesterday. Here is the text of his decision:
By the authority vested in me as Governor of the State of Florida, under the provisions of Article m, Section 8, of the Constitution of Florida, I do hereby veto and transmit my objection to Committee Substitute for Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 1796 (CS/CS/SB 1796), enacted during the 124″‘ Session of the Legislature of Florida, during the Regular Session of 2022 and entitled:
An act relating to Dissolution of Marriage
If CS/CS/SB 1796 were to become law and be given retroactive effect as the Legislature intends, it would unconstitutionally impair vested rights under certain preexisting marital settlement agreements. See art. I §10, Fla. Const.
For this reason, I withhold my approval of CS/CS/SB 1796 and do hereby veto the same.
Ron DeSantis, Governor
The 2022 alimony reform effort is now at an end.
But we expect continued efforts in the future from a determined anti-alimony lobby.