Florida Alimony Reform & Working Women

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Alimony on Monday, December 7, 2015.

Alimony reform is a nationwide phenomenon. If alimony reform comes to Florida, it may be too late for a 65-year-old woman ordered to pay her ex-husband $7,000 a month.

Currently, there are a few bills Florida has tried to pass to amend our alimony statute. I’ve written before about the previous attempts, including the current Senate Bill 250.

But Florida is not new. A few states have already limited alimony judgments, especially in cases where the marriage is less than 20 years. However, many state bills, like Florida’s, are in progress, or are constantly evolving.

As Time magazine explains:

Alimony, otherwise known as spousal support or maintenance, is an ongoing payment by the higher-earning spouse to the lower-earning one. It has changed and shifted over the 40 years since the Supreme Court ruled that it had to be applied equally to both genders.

Yet it is still heavily weighted toward men paying women. Only 3% of around 400,000 alimony recipients are male, according to the 2010 census, up 0.5% since 2000. Recipients claimed $9.2 million in payments in 2013 on their tax returns.

Unlike child support, which is common when divorcing couple has kids, alimony awards have always been very rare, going from about 25% of cases in the 1960s to about 10% today, said Judith McMullen, a professor of law at Marquette University. In one study of Wisconsin cases, she found it was only 8.6%.

A more recent phenomenon is the notion of women paying the ex-husbands alimony for life. Now that women are paying alimony more often, they are getting involved in advocating for change.

“It’s unfair for men to pay it, and unfair for women to pay it. But women are much more outraged by it,” said Ken Neumann, a founder of the Academy of Professional Family Mediators.

Tanya Williams, who has been sending a check to her ex-husband for 13 years, is among those who do not understand the concept of “permanent” alimony – when one spouse pays the other indefinitely – and has joined the cause against it.

“There’s no other contract where the liability continues after the contract ends,” said the 52-year-old dentist who got divorced in Florida but now lives in Florida. “You can’t leave your job and say, ‘I still have a need so you have to continue to pay me.’ “

A few states, Massachusetts, Texas and Kansas, limit alimony to helping lower-earning spouses get back on their feet or get further education. The general consensus is that everyone should work, and the only individuals likely to get a longer-term award are those who are disabled or are in retirement.

In New York, for instance, new rules go into effect in January 2016 which further limit alimony based on the duration of the marriage. The rules also restrict the way you can project the future earnings of professionals like doctors.

The Time magazine article is here.