Florida Termination of Everlasting Alimony Act goes to governor – Information – The Florida Instances-Union
A bill passed by Florida legislature, passed for the governor’s signature, would fundamentally change the state’s maintenance laws and custody arrangements, with fears that women and children could be harmed.
If signed by Governor Rick Scott, the law would end the permanent maintenance in Florida.
Supporters of the maintenance reform say the changes are long overdue to correct an outdated system that has better suited housewives of recent decades than today’s families. Four other states have already abolished permanent maintenance.
The law would also set new standards for a short or long term marriage and allow payments to be changed or terminated when the dependent retires.
The bill, which was passed by the Senate this month and on Thursday by 85 to 31 votes, could change countless cases that have already been decided. It was written to be retroactive and would go into effect July 1st when Scott signs the law.
But it also includes new language about “timeshare,” which states that, with a few exceptions, having equal time with each parent is in the best interests of the child.
Much of the reform looks good on paper, said Cynthia Hawkins DeBose, a family law expert and law professor at Stetson University College of Law. With these changes, Florida will be one of the few states addressing sweeping changes to child support payments, she said.
“In that regard, for better or for worse, this would be something that is seen as a landmark change.
In practice, however, she is concerned about the constitutionality of retrospectively amending maintenance arrangements, language that appears to terminate alimony payments if the payee is in a “supportive relationship” but not remarried, and changing the definition of a short-term one Marriage now under 11 years of age – longer than half of marriages. A medium term marriage lasts 11-19 years.
Scott’s spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said the governor is reviewing the legislation.
Alan Frisher, a certified divorce finance analyst and president of family law reform, said the changes would help families by removing the lingering bitterness between ex-spouses caused by money and custody disputes. Family law reform, formerly known as Florida Alimony Reform, led the way in enforcing the changes that went to a vote but failed last year.
“That would bring consistency and predictability to this law, and right now the completely arbitrary decisions are wreaking havoc,” Frisher said. “This is for the children, future generations. My children will never have to experience what I and so many others have experienced, and that is probably the most important thing.”
Frisher said he had been paying his ex-wife permanent alimony until it was sorted out through mediation. He said the provisions of the bill still allow judges the flexibility to leave the guidelines for granting short or long term maintenance based on a set formula, as long as they state their reasons in writing.
But Florida Bar’s family law department is opposed to the reforms because there is no evidence that the reforms are in the best interests of the children, said Carin Porras, chairwoman of the section.
“It is important to us that we put parents in a situation in which we make it very difficult to make the decision to stay at home and take care of the children,” said Porras.
Spouses who often forego professional training and work experience may not be able to count on support later when the marriage ends, she said.
“A lot of women are going to be in their 60s and they’re kind of out in the cold because of those limitations.”
The new law assumes that spouses in “short-term” marriages under the age of 11 should not receive any support, and rehabilitation payments are favored. In the case of “long-term” marriages over the age of 20, payments are no longer permanent for a certain period.
Jacksonville’s Leslie Jones was on permanent alimony when their marriage ended after 28 years. That was 10 years ago, since then she’s been a broker and says she can support herself. But Jones said it was nothing like the money she made from a business she and her husband started together that was made possible when she supported him through school and stayed home for the art of their marriage.
Her ex got the deal, she said, and she got permanent alimony as her share of her success.
“I get it from the man’s point of view, and I don’t really know what the answer is,” said Jones. “But when I got divorced, I was married half my life. I worked hard for what we had. Why should he go away and enjoy the benefits and I have to start all over again when I am 50? “
But for Glenn Pohlman, a 77-year-old retired doctor who had been considered disabled for more than 20 years, paying alimony meant painting windows and climbing rooftops to make a living.
He said lawyers kept telling him that a change was unlikely because he still had savings. He hopes the reforms will go through.
“The problem is that the judge’s hands are tied,” said Pohlman. “If the law of lifelong maintenance is like that, you have to pay it.”
Getting childcare regulations into law is one of the top concerns of Ashley Myers, a Jacksonville licensed lawyer in matrimonial and family law.
Since the time children spend with each parent is part of the alimony calculations, a 50-50 split could reduce or eliminate alimony payments even if the visiting schedule that promises the split time never actually comes about, Myers said. Even the $ 50 retrial filing fee could deter some parents from seeking help from the courts, Myers said.
Statistically, women will be more affected, she said, and the power imbalance is likely another reason more women stopped speaking out against this law – many of them don’t want to upset their ex-spouses or speak out publicly about fear of divorce.
“Ultimately, you have to protect your own interests,” said Myers.
Kate Howard Perry: (904) 359-4697