House approves alimony law rewriteby 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.