An 11th hour decision by the Governor of Florida, Rick Scott vetoed a bill that would have ended "permanent alimony." Alimony is the court-ordered payment made, usually by a higher earning spouse to a lower earning spouse, pursuant to divorce proceedings. The fundamental rationale for alimony is to provide appropriate financial resources for a divorced spouse of limited means. Permanent alimony usually lasts until the death of one spouse or the remarriage of the receiving spouse. Courts can also award rehabilitative alimony which provides payment to assist the spouse with education, training, and expenses while being trained in a car to become financially self sufficient and reimbursement alimony which provides a repayment from one spouse to the other for money spent during the marriage.
A number of states have passed laws to end permanent alimony. One of the main arguments against permanent alimony is that it creates a culture of dependence. With the prospect of a permanent income from a former spouse, a person has little incentive to find gainful employment and become independent. Pro reformists also argue that permanent alimony is inherently biased against the higher earning spouse. These critics claim that divorcing couples must accept the possibility that both husband and wife will experience a lower standard of living following divorce.
Calculating the appropriate payment for permanent alimony can involve detailed forensic accounting to determine past contributions made by each spouse to the finances of the marriage — establishing the parties' lifestyle during the marriage, determining the needs of the spouses going forward — and a projection of future earning potential to provide a settlement that is fair.
The Florida proposal to end permanent alimony received strong — but not overwhelming — support in both houses. Governor Scott stated that his main reason for vetoing the bill was that the proposed ban would have been applied retroactively, forcing thousands of divorced couples back to court for a redetermination of their financial settlement, disrupting their agreements and the terms they relied on. The governor claims that the law in Florida already provides for the ability to return to court for a review if circumstances change. Consequently, he felt that ending permanent alimony was unnecessary.
Due to the strong lobby for ending permanent alimony from lawyers and lawmakers alike, it is likely that the debate will roll on.
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