Defend Florida households by reforming baby assist legal guidelines

As a permanent maintenance payer, I hope that HB843 / SB1832 will pass this legislative period. I married a man who had a bad work ethic at a young age, and during the 22-year marriage I had two jobs in addition to being the head of the household and mother of our three children. I worked my way through nursing school to look after our children as it turned out that my ex was not reliable. He could never have a permanent job, not even in his own family business. Instead, he often used the “system” by registering as unemployed.

It must be clear that at no point did I make an agreement with my spouse that I would be the sole breadwinner and that he could be the “home dad”. In addition, my ex became involved in non-marital activities and when exposed, moved 2 states away leaving me and the children to fend for ourselves. This is not a stable individual and it was my responsibility as a parent to ensure that my children were no longer exposed to this type of behavior.

I filed for divorce knowing my children deserved better. My spouse left home and emptied our bank accounts, leaving me and our children on our own. Even so, I continued to do the right thing for my children and made sure we survived. Fortunately, I have some excellent parents and a loving community who have ensured that our needs have been met.

Divorce is difficult no matter how it comes about. I tried to do the right thing through my marriage through marriage counseling. My ex was under no obligation and instead enjoyed expanding his abuse through the legal system during our divorce by extracting finite resources from my household to serve his own. My ex has a bachelor’s degree, a higher degree than me, but in court I was awarded a permanent alimony of half my salary because I was the main breadwinner and we were married for 22 years.

As I mentioned earlier, divorce is difficult. It’s hard for everyone involved, no matter what the circumstances. In all honesty, I never could have imagined the hardship I would endure, and if I had known, I might not have gone through the divorce despite the abuse. It is devastating to think that no matter what progress I make as an individual in my own career, I will not achieve a better standard of living, let alone retire, because I am stuck paying permanent alimony. Some argue that I could just go to court to change my agreement, but anyone who has gone through this process knows that changing is an expensive option that offers no guarantees.

It is clear that Florida’s maintenance laws have been broken. I hope that the reform will become a reality with the adoption of HB 843 / SB 1832.

Latrice Collison lives in Edgewater, Florida.

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