A legislative attempt to revise Florida’s maintenance laws went through the final committee of the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
The application (HB 1559) sponsored by Miami Republican Rep. Anthony Rodriguez, passed the Justice Committee of the House of Representatives in a party line vote 12-6, with the Democrats against and the Republicans in favor.
Legislation, which has come into force in recent years, would eliminate permanent alimony payments and set the presumption of parental custody sharing at 50/50. If passed, Florida would join 44 other states in enacting law prohibiting perpetual maintenance.
Currently, the long-term alimony can be changed at the discretion of a judge. A 1992 Florida Supreme Court judgment found that retirement is seen as a change in circumstances that can alter livelihoods.
Rodriguez successfully tackled two amendments in the last committee ban on the bill. On the one hand, it was made clear that the maintenance changes made within the framework of the draft law would apply to situations that had not yet been fully decided on July 1, and on the other hand, to enable the maintenance to be extended in the long term beyond 50% of the duration of the marriage if one parent is the full-time carer for a child with special needs.
The legislation has been criticized by the legislature across the aisle for presuming a split of the custody time on a 50/50 split. Under current law, custody is at the judge’s discretion, “based on the best interests of the child”.
“My biggest problem with this bill is the 50/50 child split,” said Volusia County Republican Elizabeth Fetterhoff, who ultimately voted to approve the bill. “I was the child of divorce and I can tell you that my parents didn’t get along and that the 50/50 division of children would not have worked for them. It’s all about a child needing structure as it is. I’m growing up.”
In particular, a 50/50 time division in custody agreements can be accompanied by a reduced child support.
As in its previous committees, the bill has received violent public testimony.
Proponents of the legislation include divorced people currently paying alimony, including several who have appeared at previous hearings of the bill committee. Many shared concerns that they might not be able to retire because of the continuous alimony.
“I’m a financial planner, I’m 63 years old. The essence of what I do is examine people’s assets and liabilities and tell them when to retire,” he said Tim Kruger, who pays alimony to his ex-wife. “I can’t even do that for myself because I don’t know when this liability ends.”
One couple also testified and discussed the difficulties of maintenance from a previous marriage.
“We have been married 21 Years. H.is first Marriage, to the Which he paying off permanent Alimony, survived to the 20th Years. While it is said the just Certainties in the Life are death and Taxes, in the Florida The Truism can Be Death, Taxes and permanent Alimony,” Dee Asgard, Wife of Vernon Asgard, said. “ALime have been a cloud over our Marriage, it have held my man tied up to Another Mrs and to one relationship The died Years in front.”
Florida Family Fairness expressed support for the bill. Several people who also spoke on the House Committee appeared at an earlier Senate meetingwho heard testimony but ran out of time to vote on legislation.
Opponents argue that cutting alimony would leave people who may be caring for children in compromising positions, and the legislation only aims to benefit the main breadwinner, unfairly disadvantaging the other person.
Florida Bar’s family law department, which defies the bill, appeared at the meeting. The organization before issued a statement against both of them The maintenance measures and the custody provisions of the draft law, in which the laws already in force are argued, take into account the special circumstances of the individual case.
“Florida family law has a lot of unrepresented people in the courtroom,” he said Beth Luna, with the Florida Bar’s Family Law Department. “When these individuals come into the courtroom, they will have difficulty understanding how to obtain evidence, what evidence is really relevant, and they will struggle with this rebuttable presumption. … I think it was said here and I will say it again, one size doesn’t fit all families, especially when it comes to sharing times. “
The Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers joined other opposition groups.
Barbara DeVane, with the FlOrida National Organization for Women said at an earlier committee meeting The organization is concerned about the potential of the law to disproportionately affect women, especially older women, at a time when the pandemic has created boundaries for jobs.
“I think this is like my ninth or tenth year of being against this bill,” DeVane said. “At a time when we are in a COVID crisis and three out of four women have left work to go home and care for their children, you are again discussing a bill that makes women and children strong and disproportionate will concern. ”
Sarasota Republican Sen. Joe Gruters sponsored this year’s Senate bill (SB 1922), she has only one committee left to clarify.
Maintenance reform has been a hot topic in recent legislative sessions. In 2016, a reform law reached the then government. Rick scott, the has entered a veto over concern it would harm children.
Last year the proposal (HB 843) was sponsored by Rep. Alex Andrade. In the past the Pensacola Republicans compared permanent alimony to “forced labor” by requiring payers to work beyond retirement age.