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Kelli Stargel meets with Rick Scott on alimony bill

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State Sen. Kelli Stargel on Monday said Governor Rick Scott now has “all the information he needs” on her bill to overhaul the state’s alimony system.

The measure (SB 668) was the final bill of the 2016 Legislative Session to be sent to Scott for review. It was delivered to his office after Stargel, a Lakeland Republican, briefly met with Scott in Tampa.

The governor was in town for the opening of the U.S. headquarters of Granex, a marble and granite distributor.

His daily schedule shows they met for 15 minutes, from 7:45 to 8 a.m. The bill was sent to the governor’s office about three hours later.

“Now we’re in a wait-and-see mode,” Stargel said.

She added that the governor “did not give any indication of which way he was leaning.”

The bill passed the Senate 24-14 this Session, then was approved by the House 74-38. Among other things, the bill changes the way Florida judges can award spousal support with an eye to get rid of what critics call “forever alimony.”

For example, it allows courts to modify alimony payments if there is a “substantial change in circumstances.” That could mean the unemployment of the person paying or the person being paid reaching the age to receive full Social Security benefits.

For years, former spouses – mostly men – have said permanent alimony isn’t fair to them. Their exes, usually women, have fought back, saying they shouldn’t be penalized for having trouble re-entering the workforce after staying home for years to raise children.

The legislation also creates a legal “premise” for child custody plans that children spend equal time with each parent.

Lawmakers have tried for several years to change the way Florida’s courts award alimony.

In 2013, Scott vetoed another attempt to modify alimony law “because it applies retroactively and thus tampers with the settled economic expectations of many Floridians who have experienced divorce.”

In his veto letter, the governor added that the “retroactive adjustment of alimony could result in unfair, unanticipated results.”

This year, House Democrats tried but failed to tack on a last-minute amendment to ensure the bill can’t be applied retroactively to old divorce judgments.

The House sponsor, Republican state Rep. Colleen Burton of Lakeland, said the bill was not retroactive; Democratic critics say the bill’s language is “unclear” at best.

Scott has until April 19 to act on the bill.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at

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