Ladies and gentlemen, come in to witness Florida’s latest attempt at child support reform! It seems that every time the circus tent goes to the legislature, some of our supposed advocates of family values manage to bring the same bad bill for another try. This year’s legislative period promises a similarly dazzling spectacle, when the controversial maintenance reform (SB 1416 and HB 1409) is once again the focus.
In previous legislation, the eye-catching feature was the retrospective nature of the proposed law. That’s right, folks, after three vetoes from the governors Ron DeSantis And Rick ScottFor the same reason, the ringmasters have returned with another version that – surprise! – would again apply to existing maintenance agreements. And they say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results…
Well, this time around, the proponents of this spectacle claim they’ve struck a delicate balance between alimony payers and alimony recipients, but have they really? After all, they said something similar last year. A simple reading of the bill shows that it would still allow judges to cut or stop child support payments, and at least one family judge argues that it is actually just as retroactive as previously rejected child support laws. Can you imagine the chaos in the courts when thousands of pending divorce settlements suddenly have to be renegotiated?
But don’t worry folks! We are assured that this will not happen. And besides, proponents argue, it’s all in the name of “fairness” and the elimination of “permanent” alimony. Regardless, most proponents of these radical changes in the law are affluent, high-earning professionals who cannot bear the thought of continuing to support their ex-spouses, many of whom made sacrifices during the marriage to their families. Fairness indeed.
It’s particularly galling that the same Republicans who claim to defend traditional marriage and family values appear to have no qualms about making divorce a more financially attractive option for top earners. What a fantastic way to strengthen the institution of marriage! Fortunately, not all Republicans are behind the bill. Credit Senator Clay Yarborough for boldly saying no during a recent committee hearing.
Among the most vocal opponents of the retrospective nature of this annual monstrosity is a group called First Wives Advocacy, women who have sacrificed career and earning opportunities to raise children or otherwise support their working spouses – sacrifices that were once considered a virtue in our culture — only to have to pick up the financial pieces when their marriages ended. As the founder of First Wives Advocacy Jan Killileapoints out that permanent alimony payments may not be necessary for all cases or even most of them, but they undoubtedly serve a crucial purpose in certain situations which are still quite common.
If passed as written and abolishing permanent alimony, the law effectively ties judges’ hands in situations where a spouse emerges from a long marriage who lacks current professional skills. It is not difficult to imagine how many modern marriages could be affected, in which, in the course of the relationship decided jointly by the couple, one person made career sacrifices while the other partner pursued a lucrative career, gained experience and earned potential firmly from it convinced they would stay together for life and that their partnership had helped them both.
If we fast-forward to a breakup between this couple, there’s an immediate imbalance that only permanent child support payments can fix — there’s just no way some stay-at-home partners will ever be able to say goodbye during the fully restore the sacrifices made in marriage. And without some protections, Republicans are sending a strong message that sacrificing career opportunities as a stay-at-home spouse deserves no respect or protection, because anyone who makes those sacrifices does not receive adequate protections in our state.
If Republicans value the sacrifices that stay-at-home moms and dads make, and are actually trying to encourage couples to enter into marriages where one parent is making those career sacrifices for their children and family, then Republicans need to Divorce makes financially significantly less attractive for major earners to sever their commitments, period. Rather than dive straight into support reform and try to make divorce “fairer” for major earners, Republican lawmakers should start asking how the proposed “reform” strengthens the institution of marriage itself.
As the Florida legislature — led by some of the supposedly “most family-friendly” Republicans in our state — begins to grapple with it, we can only hope that sensible lawmakers with a passion for strengthening marriages will step up and throw out this garbage bill. We shouldn’t have to rely year after year on Gov. DeSantis opening his veto pen and sending this cheap alimony reform bill to its rightful place in the political graveyard.
If it bursts into flames again this year, don’t worry! We will undoubtedly see another round of the absurd entertainment circus next year, and the year after, and the year after…