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Alimony Reform Advocates Head to Legislature Again

According to a recent Sarasota Herald-Tribune article, Florida alimony reform proponents are focused on returning to the legislature for another shot at passing an alimony reform bill. Florida lawmakers last passed an alimony reform bill in 2013, but Governor Rick Scott vetoed the bill, citing concerns about the proposed retroactivity of its provisions. Nonetheless, those who strongly believe in a complete overhaul of the existing Florida divorce and alimony system, which dates back to the 1960s, have geared up to support similar bills that are pending in both the House and the Senate.

Key Provisions of Proposed Alimony Reform

One of the main provisions in the bill would eliminate the concept of permanent alimony and establish clear guidelines for judges to follow in awarding alimony. The length of the marriage and the income levels of the respective spouses would be two major factors in determining whether and how much alimony should be ordered in particular divorce case. While lengthy marriages of 20 or more years would result in higher amounts of alimony, marriages lasting two years or less would likely not involve alimony at all. The bill also provides for modifications to alimony awards after a divorce is final, such as in the case of a spouse’s retirement or a 10 percent change in a receiving spouse’s income, as well as other changes to the methods by which judges determine child support and child-sharing arrangements.

Opponents to Alimony Reform

Some women’s groups, including the Florida chapter of the National Organization of Women, oppose the proposed changes to current Florida alimony statutes. A number of women have testified before the legislature, airing their concerns about changes that could reduce or even end their alimony awards. Many of these women came from lengthy marriages in which the couple had agreed that the wife should stay home and raise children, whereas the husband would focus on advancing his career. As a result, these women are stuck with the difficulties of trying to restart a career after not having worked for a long period of time, especially amid technological advancements and industry developments with which they may not be familiar.

Controversial Provisions Removed From Bill

One of the more controversial provisions of the bill is the establishment of a presumption that child-sharing should be divided 50/50 between the parents, in all divorce or paternity cases. Although some proponents laud the provision as a more realistic view of parenting today, others, including former judge Robert Doyel, point out a number of situations in which such a presumption would be completely inappropriate. One example is a case involving domestic violence, whereas another involves a mother who has been a stay-at-home mom and primary caretaker of the child, but who is now working a minimum wage job and still struggling to pay her bills. The 50/50 presumption inevitably would result in a much lower child support order. While the House has dropped this provision, the Senate bills still contain such a provision, although those bills have not yet been heard in a committee.

Call the Experienced Fort Lauderdale Divorce Attorney for Help

If you are considering divorce or separation from your spouse or partner, and particularly if alimony is an issue, you should not hesitate to seek the legal advice and counsel that only a skilled and knowledgeable Florida divorce lawyer can give you. Contact Vanessa L. Prieto Law Offices, LLC in Fort Lauderdale to schedule an appointment, and discovery what we can do for you.

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