Governor Rick Scott on Wednesday night vetoed a bill that overhauled Florida’s alimony and child custody laws. In a two-page veto letter Scott said he couldn’t support the bill because it applies retroactively. Christine Jordan Sexton reports for the Tampa Bay Business Journal.
“As a husband, father and grandfather, I understand the vital importance of family,” wrote Scott, who recently celebrated his 41st wedding anniversary. “In weighing the issues associated with this bill, however, I have concluded that I cannot support this legislation because it applies retroactively and thus tampers with settled economic expectations of many Floridians who have experienced divorce.”
It is the first bill Scott has vetoed during the 2013 session. The measure was supported by a group called Family Law Reform — formerly Florida Alimony Reform. Reached late Wednesday night, the group’s spokesperson Alan Frischer said he was, “incredibly disappointed” with the veto and that the association was “exploring all options.”
“If an override is not possible, I’m hopeful that Family Law Reform will have the opportunity to come back again and make these needed changes to our broken family law system,” Frischer said in an email.
SB 718 placed guidelines for alimony based on the length of marriages and changes the definition of short-term, moderate-term and long-term marriages to less than 11 years, 11 to 19 years, and 20 or more years, respectively.
According to the Florida Department of Health, the average duration of a marriage resulting in dissolution in 2011 was 10.2 years. There were 84,785 dissolutions of marriage in 2011 and 140,900 marriages, Department of Health figures show.
Those supporting the bill argued that the guidelines were necessary because judges today have too much leeway in considering alimony.
While the bill banned permanent alimony, it kept intact the remaining three types of alimony: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative and durational. It also would have made clear that they could combine only when the goal was to achieve rehabilitation.
The legislation also would have placed into law a rebuttable presumption against awarding alimony for a short-term marriage, but allowed for exceptions.
The Legislature gave Scott the controversial bill while it was still in session, meaning the governor had just seven days to deliberate its merits instead of 15. The abbreviated time frame limited the time that opponents had to muster a veto campaign.
It sparked an intense battle across social media and the Internet and the governor’s office had already received more than 3,600 emails in the month of April from those who supported and opposed the bill.