Ah, it’s that time of year…again. Yes, the Spring Equinox arrives this Friday, March 10th, and one of the tabebuia trees in my neighborhood has begun to bloom into a venerable yellow wonderland, marking the beginning of Spring in South Florida….which to me is only a brief moment of visual relief before the four months of the unending four plus month sweat fest, that others call summer, begins.
But today, March 7, 2017, begins another Florida tradition…the beginning of this year’s legislative session and with it, what has become another rite of spring, the latest versions of our state’s ALIMONY REFORM BILLS.
So what do our fine legislators envision for the future divorcing population of Florida? Well, first of all, if any alimony reform bill passes, it may not only apply to the “future” divorcing population, but those currently in the throes of the divorce process. If the House or Senate bills stay close to their current forms, then it the ultimate law, if passed, will apply to any divorce pending as of October 1, 2017. “But that’s seven months off,” you observe. Yes, but if this bill builds up steam, then you can bet some people who envision that he/she will get a better deal under the new bill will do all in their power (or at least their lawyers will) to delay the finality of their case past that date.
But, I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s recap what happened to alimony reform during the last four legislative sessions:
-2013 In the 11th hour (literally) the bill that both the House and Senate pass is vetoed by Governor Scott (retroactivity issue)
-2014 No alimony reform legislation is proposed….after all, it’s an election year and passing alimony reform is going to ANNOY half of the legislators’ voting base
-2015 Bills proposed in both the House and Senate with ranges as to duration and ranges and amounts alimony- in other words some guidelines. However, the House and Senate got a little held up when they were unable to negotiate one thing they are require to pass- the state budget. So, in an act reminiscent of a poor sport losing a baseball game, the House first, and then the Senate, ended their legislative sessions early, took their balls and bats and went home. Although they ultimately reconvened to get that budget passed, alimony reform was lost for that year.
-2016 The bills looked strikingly similar to those proposed in 2015. However, in a brilliant move, the bills under consideration decided that 50/50 timesharing of children should be presumed in every divorce and this provision should be included in the alimony reform statute Ultimately, the bill was vetoed because, let’s just say they were trying to kill two Bills with one stone.
-2017 Hey, deja vu all over again! Except, this year timesharing has been left where it belongs…in other sections of the statutes… and the House and Senate bills address alimony! Amazing.
The highlights of the latest incarnation include :
-a presumption of alimony in marriages over 2 years
-guidelines in the form of a range for the duration of the alimony and the amount
-a list of 14 factors to guide the court in determining the duration and range
-modification on retirement (Wee Hee!)
– and clarifying that modification when the alimony recipient has a “substantial supportive relationship” does not require cohabitation
So there you have it. I won’t go into any specifics until I see how these bills are progressing. I mean I’ve done this three times already for naught. But I’m watching the bills for any changes. Yes, this is what I do in my free time. So keep a look out for updates.
In the mean time. today also happens to be National Cereal Day. Quite coincidentally, according to radio station Y-100, the most popular cereal is Honey Nut Cheerios. Now, given the contents of this blog and the nature of my family law practice, I find that quite humorous. If you have to think too hard you’re either not a family law attorney or you’ve never been married, let alone divorced.
So enjoy a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios under the shade of a blooming tabebuia tree and, if you’re thinking about divorce, now may be the time to speak with a family law attorney. If you’re not thinking about divorce, just enjoy your cereal.