Alimony Reform Picking Up Press

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Alimony on Monday, March 16, 2015.

The Miami Herald is reporting on the big changes to alimony being debated in a new bill. The Florida Legislature is considering a bill that would end permanent alimony, as well as set up formulas for time limits and amounts of alimony.

As the Miami Herald reports, Rep. Colleen Burton and Sen. Kelli Stargel, both Polk County Republicans, the sponsored bill (HB 943) which calls for payments that would last to between 25 and 75 percent of the length of the marriage.

I’ve written about alimony reform many times in the past, and especially the formulas for calculating both the amount and the term for alimony in earlier posts.

The bill’s supporters want an end to lifetime payments, saying recipients use existing law to extort a meal ticket even when they could work.

Opponents say ending permanent alimony would make it impossible for mothers to stay home with their children, for fear of being left destitute, and punish women who give up careers to keep a family functioning.

“You can find extremes on both sides,” exploited alimony payers and recipients not getting just compensation, Burton said. In many cases, she said, awards vary widely in cases with similar circumstances.

“We’re attempting to provide direction to the courts and some parameters as to what people can expect.”

Stargel has pushed alimony changes for years, including a 2013 bill that Gov. Rick Scott vetoed because it retroactively applied to divorces that were already finalized.

She said the new bill, which wouldn’t be retroactive, is a negotiated compromise and expects former opponents, including the Florida Bar’s family law section, to support it.

But supporters of the current system are strongly opposing the measure.

Cynthia Mayer of Ponce Inlet, a member of the First Wives Advocacy group, called the bill “anti-women and anti-traditional family,” and said it could put alimony recipients, 97 percent of them women, on welfare in their later years.

Another member, Cathy Jones of Lakeland, called it “the end of the stay-at-home choice for women in Florida.”

Jones said she quit work at her husband’s request while they were married so she could rear their children and create a social life to help his career.

Now, she said, he’s a millionaire whose hobby is exotic cars, while her net worth is $70,000; her mortgage won’t be paid off until she’s 84.

“Women like me are reliant upon alimony,” she said.

Asked whether Scott would back a bill that’s not retroactive, spokeswoman Jeri Bustamante said he “will review any legislation that comes to his desk.”