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House approves alimony law rewrite

by Dara Kam | February 23rd, 2012

The House approved a watered-down version of what began as a rewrite of the state’s alimony laws but still contains provisions critics say are biased in favor of the bread-winning spouse.

The measure (HB 549) originally would have completely done away with adultery as a consideration for alimony payments and reduced the amount and length of time divorced spouses could receive the support.

The version approved Thursday does away with permanent alimony and allows a judge to take adultery into accounty when determining payments but only to the extent the cheating “significantly depletes” material assets or caused a significant reduction in one spouse’s salary.

Rep. Ritch Workman, who sponsored the bill, said the changes make Florida law more fair.

“It’s there to assist one spouse after a divorce,” Workman, a Melbourne Republican who is divorced, said during floor debate. “Alimony should be gender-neutral…All this bill does is ensure that alimony is blind to the sex of the ex-spouse and is non-punitive.”

The bill creates a presumption that both parties will have a lower standard of living after the break-up and it would allow changing or ending alimony payments to be retroactive, meaning the person receiving alimony could end up owing their former spouse.

Delray Beach Democratic Rep. Lori Berman, a lawyer, called the bill “unfairly biased” in favor of the bread-winner in a divorce.

The House approved the measure, opposed by the Florida Bar Family Law Section, with an 83-30 vote. A similar Senate measure (SB 748) supported by the Bar still has at least one more committee stop before heading to the floor.

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11 Responses to “House approves alimony law rewrite”

  1. B Perkins Says:

    Article has some misinformation.
    First paragraph about bill favors paying ex, what would be more accurate is that it evens out the conditions of both ex’s since in most cases the payor has a lower standard of living than the recipient.
    2nd para., ‘bill completely does away with adultery’, this is a no-fault state, if she or he cheats, it has no factor in divorce EXCEPT if the cheating created dissipation of marital assets. This bill clarifies that.
    Lawyers along with special interest group Fla BAR are against it because it is slowly narrowing judges discretion which in turn, reduces litigation which is what lawyers love because thats where they make their money.

  2. Stan Rosen Says:

    I can not be happier with our State’s Representative. We need more legislators like Mr. Ritch Workman! He does his district proud!

  3. Ritch Workman Says:

    Thank you for this article. I am the sponsor of the bill in the House. I just wanted to add to one statement in the article. You state that a modification could be retroactive. This is ONLY true when the receiving ex spouse lies about having a supportive relationship and is found to have lied by the judge. Then and only then would he or she be required to pay back any alimony paid after the date of the lie. Thanks for following the bill. With some luck the Senate will follow my lead and pass this good bill.

  4. Brian Reynolds Says:

    The current law is seriously flawed. It only considers the recipient’s standard of living. This leaves many payors in dire straits, unable to pay their bills and live a decent life.

    The new bill makes it clear that neither the payor nor the recipient should have a lower standard of living than the other. It also makes a presumption that alimony should end after a certain period of time.

    I was married for less than 10 years to my ex-wife. She was 34 years old when we divorced. I was ordered to pay her FOR LIFE! She was fully capable of working. She refused to work when we were married, and she still refuses today. I should not have to support a woman in these circumstances until I die!

    The new bill allows a period of time for alimony to be paid to the lower-earning spouse so that he/she can go back to school and get trained for a career. That’s fair!

  5. Linda Fischer Says:

    This is yet another example of mostly Republican males enacting laws that adversely affect females. Spouses who agree that one of them would work outside the home & the other would work inside the home need to agree to permanent alimony if the marriage breaks up. This is gender neutral, but usually it is the wife who suffers. She has given up a career to raise children, do laundry, cook, clean, etc. Husbands move on still making big money, being covered by medical insurance, a 401K plan, and a full dating schedule. The wife has few business skills & gets a $8hr job, w/o medical or 401K coverage & few people willing to date a woman with 3 kids. How is this equal? We need more women Democrats! Spread the word.

  6. Brian Reynolds Says:

    Linda, the vote was actually not as split by gender as you might think. The women in the House of Representatives were pretty evenly divided with 53.8% in favor. Men were less even with 79.3% in favor.

    The vote was very partisan, though. I’m very disappointed by this… I’m a Democrat, and I don’t see how this became a partisan issue. 90.4% of republicans voted in favor, while only 9.6% of democrats voted in favor.

    How can you justify permanent alimony after less than a 10 year marriage, as in my case?

    And, for your information, the 401(k) is almost always divided equally among the parties, as is any pensions and other retirement savings. Under current law, the recipient then gets to double-dip when the payor retires… because the judge usually forces the payor to dip into his half of the retirement funds so that he can continue to pay his ex-spouse the alimony that is “deserved” to keep her in “the lifestyle to which she has become accustomed”.

    As for child custody… that’s another issue where the courts in Florida are seriously biased. I, along with many men I know, would have LOVED to have custody of my children after the divorce. My kids would be better off with me, both financially and psychologically. Unfortunately, a man’s ex-wife has to be a crack addict who is having sex with multiple partners in front of the children before a judge will take her children away from her… and even then, there’s no guarantee!

    Furthermore, how is it that the free ride the wife got while she was staying home with the children not counted? The courts say that the wife “sacrificed” her time to care for the kids… but never consider that she was living rent free for all those years, and raising your children is a privilege! In my case, my wife stayed home and didn’t work, even though I literally BEGGED her to work. She would get the kids off to school in the morning, yes. But when they got home from school, she would get dinner ready… and then be hands-off for the rest of the evening, because the two hours between the time they got home and the time I got home was just too much for her to bear… so she needed some “me time” every night, while I worked my butt off all day, every day… and even had to take care of the kids in the evenings, helping them with their homework, getting them ready for bed, etc. On weekends, she would leave or take a nap, while I cleaned the house, cooked the meals, took care of the yard and pool, and fed the kids all three meals all weekend long. How is it that MY contribution to the family is so meaningless?

  7. Brian Reynolds Says:

    Oh, and by the way, Linda… if your kids are such a burden and they hurt your dating schedule, I have some advice. Give them to your ex-husband. He’ll probably thank you. Then, go get trained and get a job!

  8. Joanne Says:

    In our case .. She claims it is her right to collect alimony and enjoy a life of no work. She has told him that she will collect as much money from him as possible until he dies and she already took over half of the assets in the divorce.
    She has 300K in the bank, a new car and a beautiful house. Hmmmm. Why would anyone not try to abolish this?

  9. Brian Reynolds Says:

    You know, there were several times before the divorce when I took a week or two off work so my ex-wife could take a trip to visit family and friends. I took care of the kids and the housework during those trips. The thing I realized is that it only took 2-3 hours per day to do everything… and I got so bored that I cleaned the house from top to bottom each time she went on a trip! And I still had plenty of time to relax and watch TV! So, basically, permanent alimony is the continuation of the permanent vacation that she had while we were married!

    Her sacrifice was pretty good, if you ask me! I would have traded in a heartbeat! In fact, she had an excellent career opportunity at one point during our marriage. She could have easily made double the amount of money I made at the time. But she didn’t want to do it! I would have been happy to stay home with the kids. Heck, I could have started a home-based business too! Kinda makes you wonder why stay-at-home moms can’t do that, doesn’t it?

  10. Alan Frisher Says:

    I have helped in drafting this new legislation and am the Spokesman for Florida Alimony Reform, now the Nations Largest Alimony Advocacy Group. The retroactivity is misinterpreted in this article. Retroaction would only occur if the payor was able to prove cohabitation existed with regard to the payee, and only then would the payor be able to get back the money that was paid from the filing of the petition for modification. Proving cohabitation is extremely challenging in Florida, but this would put cohabitating alimony recipients on notice that they may want to consider settling before it gets to court. This reform movement is important because the law is currently being abused by the courts and permanent alimony is being ordered as the norm, not the exception. Please visit FloridaAlimonyReform.com for more information.
    Alan Frisher, CDFA
    Co-Director, Spokesman
    Florida Alimony Reform.

  11. Randy Prime Says:

    Iam all for eliminating this perm alimony my ex wife was awarded this by a female judge in Polk county.We were married eighteen years but was only forty one at time of divorce. She was a retail store manager after we got married and had a medical degree to read ekgs. Judge gave her the house half my retirement and thousand dollars a month alimony and i drove a truck for a grocery chain. She moved out of the house after a year stopped paying on the mortgage two years ago destroyed my credit and is still going on today real fair law.

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