Upkeep reform invoice goes to the ultimate Home Committee

The so-called Maintenance Reform Act was brought to the final committee on Tuesday with divorced, remarried and others giving personal testimony on both sides of the bill.

The application (HB 843) from Rep. Alex Andrade would abolish permanent alimony and set the presumption of shared custody at 50-50. In the past he was Republican from Pensacola compared constant maintenance to “forced labor” by encouraging payers to work past retirement age.

Maintenance recipients argued that the cut in permanent maintenance would leave divorced divorced homeless at retirement age, but Andrade denied their claims.

“There are 44 other states that got rid of it in the past and you haven’t seen this massive move towards dependence on the state,” he said.

Lawyer Philipp Wartenberg, who represents the Florida Bar Association’s family law division, said the bill was unnecessary because laws as they currently exist work well. Courts use discretion which he feared would overturn the 50-50 presumption to make fair and equitable decisions.

“The idea that courts order permanent alimony is also wrong,” he said. “It is a small number of cases that currently result in permanent alimony.”

But even Plantation Democratic Rep. Michael Gottlieb, the most vocal critic on the panel, felt his testimony Tuesday expose the flaws in the maintenance system, even if the anecdotes were from extreme cases.

“We are definitely hearing of certain injustices in the system and the system clearly needs to be reformed. I just don’t think this reform is, ”he said. “I think it’s going too far, I have a feeling that it is throwing the baby away with the bath and that it is just not necessarily doing what it is supposed to be doing.”

And Home Justice Assignments Subcommittee Chairperson Clay Yarborough dropped out of his party to vote against the bill as the panel passed Measure 7-4. He admitted that the bill was still in the works, but feared that some provisions, including the 50 percent limit on the duration of marriage, could have unintended consequences.

“I just didn’t feel comfortable putting my name on something that we’re not sure about the extent to which some parties out there … may need to turn to the state and taxpayers for help,” Yarborough told Florida Politicians.

West Palm Beach Democratic Representative. David Silvers gave the bill its preliminary approval. But if the legislation hits the House without addressing stakeholder concerns, he would change his mind.

Currently, long term maintenance can be changed at the discretion of a judge. And the language added to the bill last month prevents it from overriding current alimony deals, a fact that has apparently been lost to some witnesses who feared their current alimony payments would be impacted.

Blake Taylor, a retired court reporter who has become a family court attorney, says a trusted woman with early-onset dementia fears for her stability if Florida passes the law.

“As her dementia continues to get worse, she will run out of support,” said Taylor. “She won’t have anyone to stand up for her, and she says herself that she’ll end up in a state care facility.”

A Florida Supreme Court judgment 1992 established that retirement is seen as a change in circumstances that can alter livelihoods. However, Andrade says that codification into state law would save Floridians from making costly court appeals.

Maintenance reform has been a hot topic in recent legislative sessions. In 2016, a reform bill made it to the government. Rick scott, WHO Vetoed concerns that it would harm children.

Last month, HB 843 acquitted the House of Representatives Civil Justice Subcommittee in a party vote. The Senate Companion (SB 1832), sponsored by Lakeland Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel, has not yet been scheduled for a committee hearing.

Stargel previously told Florida Politics she expected her action in the Judiciary Committee of the Senate last week. But the Senate’s appetite for maintenance reform is now being challenged, as committees have been slated for two weeks since then without taking their bill.

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