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Alimony Reforms Hit Governor’s Desk

Andrew Malone via Flickr
Credit Andrew Malone via Flickr

All of the bills passed by Florida lawmakers during the recent legislative session have now made it to Florida Governor Rick Scott’s desk. The final bill sent to the governor would create a formula for awarding alimony payments.

Among the bill’s now on the governor’s desk is a measure that would create a new formula for awarding alimony payments. Bill sponsor Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) says the measure is an attempt to take some of the emotion out of a divorce proceeding.

“What this bill does do is it says that we’re going to have a formula for the state that’s going to have an idea of a presumption of how we’re going to award alimony based on the duration of the marriage and based on the income disparities of the two individuals. So what it’s doing with the award of alimony is trying to remove the emotion from a situation that is very emotional for all people involved and moving it to the financial decision,” Stargel says.

But there was plenty of emotion left during the legislature’s discussion of the bill.  Sen. Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa) calls the measure an assault on alimony recipients. During a committee meeting on the measure she raised concerns about the impact the measure could have on women who gave up their careers to become stay at home moms.

“I know there are persons who are tired of paying, but I know on the flip side if I gave up everything and my career for a person to raise their children and then I get kicked to the curb when I get 55 or 60--some young pretty thing comes in and he no longer wants me. And now you get subject to this because that person wants to live a life of luxury or good times and heck with all that I’ve contributed to the marriage and the rearing of the children,” Joyner says.

One provision women’s rights advocates like Barbara DeVane found particularly concerning would let a person paying alimony ask for an adjustment if the recipient gets a 10-percent raise.

“Maybe you can go out and find a little job after staying at home all these years and you’re older and there is age discrimination in hiring and also you’re way behind on your skills at finding a job, keeping a job, getting a job," DeVane says.  "And you get a $10 an hour job and you get a $1 raise and now you’re making $11 an hour and now you have to go to court because your ex husband is going to run and try to get a modification. How are you going to afford one of these high priced attorneys?"

Meanwhile, Natalie Sohn who says she’ll be paying alimony for the rest of her life after just 15 years of marriage, says she disagrees with DeVane’s characterization.

“Women are not helpless. 50-percent of the workforce are women. And to even say if someone gets divorced, which 50-percent of the population does now—how insulting to women,” Sohn says.

Sohn says she supports the proposed reforms because they could make it more possible for her to eventually retire.

The bills also requires judges to begin custody decisions with the assumption that equal time with both parents is in the best interest of the child.

Scott has until Tuesday the 19 th to take action on the measure. He can sign it let it pass without his signature, or veto it. Last year the governor vetoed similar alimony reform legislation because of concerns that it could be applied retroactively.

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