Florida’s next legislative session does not begin until early March. But lawmakers are already gearing up to introduce bills on several topics. Including, once again, spousal support.

Readers probably recall that a bill to restrict how family law courts in Florida may award alimony passed both the House and Senate during this year’s session. However, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the bill, saying at the time that he opposed a provision that applied the restrictions retroactively. That would have allowed the spousal support orders in some prior divorces to be changed.

The main issue of contention for the 2013 bill’s supporters is permanent alimony. In Florida, if a couple is married for at least 17 years before getting divorced, one of the spouses may be able to receive support payments from the other for the rest of his or her life. Opponents of permanent alimony say that it is unfair and no longer applies to the modern day, when spouses frequently both work outside the home.

But those who oppose changing the law say that doing away with permanent alimony would financially harm many women who were married for a long time and never had a career out the home, believing they would never need to. Gov. Scott said the retroactivity portion would have attacked “the settled economic expectations of many Floridians.”

It appears that reform advocates in the Legislature will try again in 2014. The chairman of the House Civil Justice Subcommittee, recently told members of the Justice Committee that he expects a similar bill to pass his subcommittee next year. The 2013 bill’s authors said they would introduce a new bill, but only if they are reasonably sure that Scott would not veto it again.

Whether this effort is successful could have a serious impact on the divorce proceedings of many Florida couples. We will keep readers up to date on this important debate.

Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune, “Alimony reform likely topic,” Lloyd Dunkelberger, Sept. 27, 2013