Staff Writer, Ayo and Iken Law Firm
April 20, 2021
TALLAHASSEE – Year after year, Republican lawmakers push to end permanent alimony in Florida, but due to opposition from Democrats or missed deadlines, the effort always seems to fall short. This year was supposed to be different, but in an unexpected turn of events, Sen. Joe Gruters suddenly withdrew Senate Bill 1922, dashing the hopes of permanent alimony payers.
During a Senate Rules Committee hearing this afternoon, Sen. Gruters began his presentation with a short summary of why ending permanent alimony is necessary in Florida. “In Florida, a spouse in a long-term marriage, more than seventeen years, can be ordered to pay permanent lifetime alimony. This lasts until one of the parties dies or until the recipient remarries. Under this scenario, what incentive does a recipient have to ever remarry?” Gruters goes on to explain what happens if either party attempts to modify an alimony award. “Opponents of the bill will tell you that permanent alimony isn’t really permanent. Opponents will tell you that anyone can go to court and seek a modification and reduce it. Well, that is true but in reality, it rarely occurs. The reverse is also true, and people often seek to modify alimony upwards.” Gruters further explains the exorbitant cost of litigation prohibits payers from seeking modification, especially those with a loss of income who want to reduce payments.”
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As public speakers on both sides of the issue prepared to voice their opinions at a nearby remote location, Sen. Gruters cleared his throat and said, “…at this point, there are some issues that we don’t have common ground on, and for that reason, I’m going to “TP” the bill and bring this bill back next year.”
The House companion Bill, HB 1559, passed all its respective committees and was scheduled for a floor vote tomorrow. SB 1922 would have also been scheduled for a floor vote as early as tomorrow, had it passed the Rules Committee today.
The presumption of equal time-sharing between parents of minor children was included in the bill because lawmakers argue that parents will use children as leverage in negotiating alimony – essentially “weaponizing” children in a divorce. At least 34 states have pending or passed legislation that equalizes time-sharing for both parents.
Florida remains only one of six states that still allow permanent alimony awards.
Ayo & Iken will bring more on the story as it develops…