Changes to Florida’s alimony law are on the table

TALLAHASSEE – Legislation heard Monday afternoon in a Florida Senate Committee would end permanent alimony and set formulas for how much and how long a spouse would make or receive payments.

Deborah Favata-Shultz, a physician from Apollo Beach, has been paying alimony for 17 years.

“I’ve paid alimony as long as we were married,” said Shultz.

Under proposed sweeping changes, alimony would no longer be permanent, but limited to half the time of the marriage.

“I am 68 years old. I want to retire. I don’t know how I am going to do that if I have to keep paying him this money,” said Shultz.

Senate bill sponsor Joe Gruters said alimony will also end at retirement.

“This doesn’t end alimony. It just ends permanent alimony. But on top of that, you still get 50 percent of all marital assets,” said Gruters.

Under current law, alimony only ends when a spouse gets remarried or a court agrees. But this legislation ends alimony if someone is getting substantial support, like living with someone who is helping pay the bills.

“What happens is that they just will never remarry because it’s not in their best interests. And ultimately, it’s cheating the system,” said Rep. Anthony Rodriquez, who is sponsoring the bill in the House.

The Florida National Organization for Women has fought the changes for a decade.

“That woman will be punished for staying home and talking care of the children, while her husband is out advancing his career, and then casting her aside,” said Barbara DeVane with Florida NOW.

The legislation does make it easier for either spouse to go back to court to seek a modification, up or down.

The bill also says there is a presumption spouses will share children equally.

Similar ideas were vetoed by then-Gov. Rick Scott in 2013 and again in 2016.