Alan Frisher: Reform alimony laws

Published: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, June 3, 2013 at 4:56 p.m.

Florida’s alimony laws were written back in the day -- when women had little economic power, divorce was uncommon and cohabiting was scandalous. Those days are long gone, but the old-fashioned alimony laws favoring permanent alimony payments linger on.

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Current alimony law in Florida causes immense hardship for those who must support an ex-spouse until death, regardless of circumstance. Too many alimony payers are forced into bankruptcy and foreclosure, but when life changes and they need to modify payments — they can’t. Those who receive permanent alimony are never obligated become self-sufficient, even if they live with someone else and have finished raising children years ago.

We, at Family Law Reform, think it is unfair, not just to the payers, but everyone involved. The public thinks it’s unfair –- and so do most of Florida’s legislators. In the 2013 legislative session, both the House and Senate passed the proposed alimony law with a super-majority vote that allowed new law with new limits and plenty of room for judges to make decisions in unusual cases.

Unfortunately, Gov. Rick Scott, without leaving enough time available for an override vote, decided to veto this much needed legislation.

For two years now, the House sponsor of the bill, Rep. Ritch Workman (R-Brevard) has compromised with opponents from the Bar’s Family Section. Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Orange/Osceola/Polk), this year, has done the same. Evidently these compromises weren’t enough.

When Rep. Workman tried to reintroduce the legislation without any retroactivity, to address the reason stated by the Governor as to why he vetoed the bill, the leadership of the House and Senate never brought it to the floor for a vote.

Many lawyers and judges know the laws need an update. But the Bar’s Family Section disagrees, forcing maximum litigation and many return trips to court. We at Family Law Reform think it’s outrageous because those who pay this permanent financial "obligation" should eventually be allowed a reprieve through appropriate law.

Family Law Reform has 5,000 members each with unimaginable stories. One of our members was ordered to pay lifetime alimony to woman he’d been married to for less than 10 years, who became a convicted felon during the marriage and another member is forced to pay 65 percent of her net income because her ex-husband refuses to get a job.

Family Law Reform became the number one advocacy issue during the past legislative session. The outcry from our membership will not be in vain. Our organization will grow and become a much more powerful force to be reckoned with in state politics.

Alan Frisher is president and spokesman of Family Law Reform, Inc.

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