The debate over proposed alimony laws in Florida that would drastically change the divorce landscape is heating up before the Legislature begins the 2012 session.
Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell analyzed the proposed Florida House and Senate bills in a mid-November article claiming the bill would benefit “…wealthy men who cheat on their wives.”
A pro-reform group called Florida Alimony Reform claims the Sunshine State’s laws are draconian and out-of-touch with modern society. According to the group’s website, “Because of [antiquated] laws and attitudes, it is common for healthy, employed women in their 30s and 40s to receive permanent alimony.”
Versions of the bill were introduced by State Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla of Miami and State Rep. Ritch Workman of Brevard County, both Republicans. Maxwell pointed out in his column that Workman introduced the bill only about a week after his own divorce became final.
The proposed law would dramatically affect family law. HB 549 and SB 748 both have provisions that limit alimony’s duration as a function of the length of the marriage. “Lifetime alimony” is a sticking point among proponents of change. The new law could end alimony upon reaching retirement age and cap alimony at 20 percent of the payer’s income.
Workman admitted in Maxwell’s column that the cap would likely be removed. Some have called it unconstitutional.
The proposed law would allow people currently paying alimony to petition the court to modify their agreement based on the new law and would prohibit the use of a payer’s new spouse’s income as part of a judgment.
Workman told Maxwell the Florida proposal was inspired by and modeled after sweeping reforms passed by the Massachusetts Legislature this past summer. The highlight of the Massachusetts law is limits to the length of time alimony must be paid. But now divorced spouses in Massachusetts can have their payments ended by a judge if they move in with another partner even if they do not get remarried.
The Massachusetts law also has inspired proposed legislation in New Jersey. News outlets including ABC News and the Huffington Post are covering the trend of state alimony reform.
If the Florida bill were to pass with the provision that allows courts to look at previously decided judgments, it opens the doors for many cases to get a fresh look.
Workman told Maxwell he has already reconsidered some parts of the bill. The Florida Legislature begins its 2012 session Jan. 10.
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