The debate over a bill that bans permanent alimony isn’t over — it’s just shifting, with the bill now headed to the desk of Gov. Rick Scott.
The measure (SB 718) has passed in the House and Senate and went to the governor on Tuesday, with thousands of Floridians urging Scott to sign or veto it.
The bill also limits alimony payments based on income and the length of marriage.
The sponsors, Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, and Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, called on Scott to sign it quickly.
“He’s never indicated he’s had a concern about it,” Workman said at a press conference Tuesday. “So this isn’t about a concern. This is about encouraging him to do it right away. Let’s get this law on the books as soon as possible.”
“It’s going to be good for families to have that consistency, where they’re not going to be litigating for years and years and years to the point that nobody has any money except for the attorneys,” Stargel said.
As the measure marched to passage, lawmakers heard painful tales of ex-spouses who have suffered financially due to either too much alimony or not enough. Workman brandished a binder he said was full of such horror stories supporting the measure.
Opponents – including the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar – say the bill is unfair to those who have been out of the workforce for years to raise children, predominantly women.
“Last year there were billboards up in Tallahassee that said ‘Don’t Get Divorced in Florida,'” said Carin Porras, chair of the Family Law Section. “If this legislation is signed, they’ll all be flocking here for divorces.”
Scott’s poll numbers have been underwater with women. According to survey results released last month by Quinnipiac University, 32 percent of women approved of his job performance and 51 percent disapproved, with 17 percent saying they were unsure.
Workman insisted his bill is family-friendly.
“If he needs the women’s vote, this is not the bill to veto,” Workman said of Scott.
Porras said one aspect of the bill that troubled her was the addition of a provision giving equal time with children to both parents. Currently the law requires that if the parents can’t agree, the judge will decide what is in the best interests of the child after considering a number of factors.
“So this (bill) appears to be saying it’s really not about what’s in the best interests of the child,” Porras said. “It’s presuming all children are the same. It’s a cookie-cutter approach.”
Scott said Tuesday he’s still reviewing the bill, noting that Saturday had been his 41st wedding anniversary.
“I like being married,” he said.
Scott has seven days to decide on the bill.
by Margie Menzel