Second Attempt to Reform Spousal Support Crashes and Burns

GEO CASUALIt almost happened in 2013 as proponents of alimony reform in Florida heralded what they believed was the forthcoming passage of new laws eliminating lifetime spousal support and introducing other significant changes in alimony laws. However, women’s groups and divorce attorneys convinced Governor Rick Scott to veto the new law and the hopes of overburdened spouses were dashed.

Fast forward to 2015 where two separate alimony reform bills were introduced to legislators. Florida’s Senate embraced a bill that would end life time spousal support and provide a calculation for the amount and length of support based on the length of the spouses’ marriage and their respective incomes. Not content to focus on alimony reform, it also contained a provision mandating 50/50 shared parenting.

Meanwhile, a similar but separate bill was the subject of debate in Florida’s House where it handily passed.

While the Senate bill raised the heated controversy surrounding equal parenting, the House bill merely added a policy statement that
a child’s interests are usually best served by having both parents involved in his or her life. The bill did not seek to introduce a presumption in favor of either parent for time-sharing, relying as it did on a policy of maximum contact with each parent.

Florida media outlets reported that Senator Tom Lee stood in the way of the Senate’s acceptance of the House bill because of an alleged grudge he held related to his own divorce 15 years earlier, an allegation denied by Senator Lee. Lee was a vocal proponent of 50/50 parenting and would not vote in favour of the House bill’s “watered-down” version.

Nonetheless, the House and Senate’s decision to mix shared parenting with spousal support reform was a significant factor in the demise of alimony reform.

It appears the philosophy of reformers is to try to fix all the perceived ills of family laws in one fell swoop, a strategy that has backfired in other jurisdictions. Pundits say that had the bill dealt strictly with alimony it would likely have passed.

As it is now, lifetime alimony remains and it may be another two years before a further attempt is made. My suggestion? Deal with alimony and get that law passed. Phase 2 can then focus on shared parenting, however, laws that are “extreme”, such as a strict 50/50 formula or retroactivity are less attractive to major interest groups, including family law lawyers and women’s rights groups, who hold significant sway over public opinion.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

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10 thoughts on “Second Attempt to Reform Spousal Support Crashes and Burns

  1. God forbid we think of alimony reform and shared parenting in the same breath, it is all about family courts…stupid. The longer this is drawn out the more money is pocketed by family law attorneys. The system is completely and utterly corrupt, in a nut shell. The Bar Association , the Legislature and the Judiciary are all self serving organized crime associations.

  2. Personally, I think Senator Lee is on the right track. I also think the Alimony Reform bill has a greater chance of being enacted with him fully supporting the bill.

    ….and I expect the bill to be signed by late February, not “two years from now”.

  3. I don’t think you are being fair here. Which issue is more important? In your theory you are saying to go along with alimony reform and deal with equal time sharing at a later time. Well I can assure you there are an equal amount of people that would say the opposite. One side has the issue of children being abused by the courts archaic laws and the other side being abused by the courts archaic laws. We must remain united and fight together. FLS obviously wants to separate the 2 because it is within their plan. There are already provisions to not do equal time sharing when there are issues with one parent why should GOOD parents have to prove they are god parents and line the pockets of the lawyers. REDUCE the litigation on families and by reducing the litigation you also make the families move on and heal

  4. Exactly. Senator Tom Lee’s insistence of adding the 50/50 child support clause to this alimony bill was a huge mistake. Was this a deliberate action of his to undermine the bill? We will never know. I am a second spouse, and I have a right to protect my assets and income from my husband’s former spouse. This bill had a clause to protect second spouses.

    Now that the bill is dead, the only option we have is divorce (using ONE attorney). Why? The county he divorced in has proven to repeatedly skew rulings in favor of the payee. If anything happens to my husband causing him to not be able to pay the current 48% of his income to the ex-wife (lifetime alimony), the judge will ask to look at the “household” income and that includes my income. I wish the three attorneys I talked with prior to marrying had told me the truth.

  5. I am seeing this same message coming from many camps opposing reform as it seems the other side knows if it stays in this bill it gets passed and signed. Your facts are wrong though…bill did not crash and “burn” it got high jacked by medical insurance and house walking out. There was enough time to pass both and reconcile into one bill. You are also Seem to be off on the timing of this. Workshops start in the fall and we have an early a session this year so this will be taken up and move faster through the chambers.

  6. Unfortunately, the attorneys who have built very successful practices on the backs of this outdated and dysfunctional system will prevent any passage of reform, updated laws, etc. that will cut them out of this multi-billion dollar business.

    Like many of you, I am on the paying side of what I believe to be a very unfair, outdated and imbalanced system where the individuals who are accountable and responsible in our society, and a result make an income, become responsible to subsidize those who feel entitled and make a conscious decision to not be accountable for their own lives. Remember, we are talking about grown adults and not children. The irony is that we teach and parent our children to become responsible and accountable adults, yet when it comes to spousal support and family law, the system treats those receiving spousal support like they are children. In my view, split the assets based on need and each person’s ability to make a living and be done with it. Neither a man or woman should be paying the other to maintain a “quality of life” that obviously one of them did not equally contribute to during the marriage.

    I anxiously await the day when reforms occur and the laws are not focused on maintaining financial parity but rather supporting what’s right, fair and the truth. Frankly, isn’t that what the judicial system is to be all about.

    1. @James – Only the lawyers win, so follow what wise Asian couples do: Don’t legally divorce, but have an agreement “to play” with the othe spouse.

  7. Yes, that’s the issue. If a spouse has need or is entitled to compensation for giving up her financial prospects to raise children, and her husband has means, and the relationship is longer that 20 years, “indefinite” support will be ordered in Canada.

    “indefinite” means support will be paid until payor has no income or income equivalent to recipient’s. Income earned from assets divided between the parties is generally exempt unless it is business income. For example, husband has a business selling widgets, wife gets paid for her half interest in the business and husband retains business and continues to earn income. That income will be included for purposes of paying indefinite spousal support.

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