Women's group calls on Rick Scott to reject Tom Lee's proposed alimony bill - Florida Politics

Women’s group calls on Rick Scott to reject Tom Lee’s proposed alimony bill

Although a legislative proposal to put an end to permanent alimony died in the Regular Session this year, it’s coming back in 2016, and a women’s group opposing the proposal is calling on Gov. Rick Scott to put a stop to it if reaches his desk.

UniteWomen.Org FL is opposing SB 250, a bill sponsored by Brandon Republican state Sen. Tom Lee that would require a court to consider certain alimony factors and make specific written findings of fact after making specified determination,  including a presumption that nearly equal time-sharing by both parents is in the best interest of the child.

The group is calling on Scott to reject Lee’s measure and form a neutral, bipartisan family law task force to study proposed legislative changes in depth and make recommendations that they contend won’t put Florida’s women and children at risk.

UniteWomen.org state director Jan Lella said, “This bill, like its predecessors, will economically devastate women in traditional marriages who are divorced.”  

She said the bill “is hostile toward women” because in addition to dramatically reducing alimony awards, it will place the burden of litigating for need on the spouse who has little to no income. “Like those sponsored before it, SB 250 presents a one-sided and indefensible refuge for men seeking to punish or abandon the women they married and the children of the marriage in a divorce.”

This will be the third time in four legislative sessions that the bill has come before the Legislature. A similar bill was vetoed in 2013 by Scott. That bill had language that would have allowed it to apply retroactively. Scott said it would have unanticipated results. The premature end to the regular session this year precluded it getting passed by both houses of the Legislature.

Among the provisions included in Lee’s bill:

  • Requiring a judge to “make specific written findings of fact regarding the relevant factors that justify an award of alimony.”
  • Changing the calculations for alimony amounts to make it less easy to get. That includes considering what an ex-spouse could be making if he or she is otherwise “voluntarily unemployed or underemployed.”
  • Excluding undistributed “earnings or gains on retirement accounts” when determining income for alimony purposes.
  • Creating a legal presumption that “approximately equal time-sharing with a minor child by both parents is … in the (child’s) best interest.”
  • Requiring a judge to consider “the frequency that a parent would likely leave the child in the care of a non-relative … when the other parent would be available and willing to provide care” when deliberating custody time.

UniteWomenOrg. FL contends that if adopted, the  Senate “Family Law Reform” Bill SB2 50 or variations of it would be the most sweeping change to Florida family law in the state’s history – “all with no substantiating economic, sociological or fiscal impact study.” They say that if passed and signed by Scott,  SB 250 will make Florida the first state in the nation to force a split 50-50 child time-sharing presumption onto its residents.

The Florida League of Women Voters, the National Organization for Women, the Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida and the Florida Breastfeeding Coalition also oppose the Lee bill.

FloridaPolitics.com reporter James Rosica contributed to this article.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

26 Comments

  1. Look closely gentlemen.
    This is the “equality” that feminism really stands for. Feminism should be correctly described as Female-Supremacism. It is nothing more than greed and entitlement.

  2. From the article: “[Jan Lella] said the bill “is hostile toward women” because in addition to dramatically reducing alimony awards, it will place the burden of litigating for need on the spouse who has little to no income.”

    The fact is that the higher-earning spouse almost always is ordered to pay the fees of the attorneys who represent the lower-earning spouse. Therefore, the apparent argument in the quote is a moot point.

    In response to the bullet points in the article, specifically:

    1) Requiring a judge to “make specific written findings of fact regarding the relevant factors that justify an award of alimony.”
    2) Changing the calculations for alimony amounts to make it less easy to get. That includes considering what an ex-spouse could be making if he or she is otherwise “voluntarily unemployed or underemployed.”
    3) Excluding undistributed “earnings or gains on retirement accounts” when determining income for alimony purposes.
    4) Creating a legal presumption that “approximately equal time-sharing with a minor child by both parents is … in the (child’s) best interest.”
    5) Requiring a judge to consider “the frequency that a parent would likely leave the child in the care of a non-relative … when the other parent would be available and willing to provide care” when deliberating custody time.

    #1: What is wrong with requiring a judge to write down his reasoning? Right now, the judge can make this determination without any reason whatsoever… or maybe just because he doesn’t “like you”.

    #2: Actually, the new calculations make alimony MUCH EASIER to get. However, the calculations limit the duration and amount. And… why WOULDN’T a judge be required to consider what each spouse COULD earn if they were fully employed?

    #3: Retirement savings are almost always “distributed” as part of the divorce. Usually, each ex-spouse walks away with half of the retirement savings from the marriage. This provision prevents “double dipping” into the remaining half of the undistributed retirement savings. Today, the paying ex-spouse often is forced to dip into his/her half of the marital retirement savings in order to continue to pay alimony. That’s not fair. If you got half of my 401(k)/IRA/whatever in the divorce, WHY should I be forced to use my half in order to continue to pay monthly alimony payments to you? You should have saved YOUR HALF for your own retirement!

    #4: Let’s face it… today in Florida, there is a judicial bias that children should spend the majority of their time with the mother, unless the father can prove that the mother is a terrible, horrible mother (and, even then, the mother often gets awarded primary custody). The truth is… that absent abuse by the father, children need BOTH parents equally. The proposed Bill makes it abundantly clear that abusive parents will not benefit from equal time sharing, and that this only applies if it does not place the child in danger. It further provides that equal time sharing is only reasonable when both parents are able to transport the child to the same school, after-school activities, friends, family, etc.

    #5: This is simply a clause that basically says this: If parent X is able to care for the child while parent Y is at work, school, or some other obligation… then parent X should be given the opportunity to do so unless, as stated in #4 above, there is abuse or some other reason that this would put the child in danger. Obviously, if neither parent presents a danger to the child, then the CHILD is better served by being able to spend more time with both parents.

    1. I do not have a bone in the argument for alimony, although I do see the points raised by those who are opposed to it. My contention is that forced 50/50 shared parenting places undue burden on the lower income spouse (95% of the time that would be the mother). The mother has in most situations done most of the child rearing to date – seldom do you see a dad in a doctor’s office, or picking up sick kids from school, or the various other “icky” things that usually fall to the mother because she does earn less so it is therefore easier and less expensive for her to leave work.

      There are provisions already in place for cases of abuse, but judges ignore those now, so with the rules tightened, how many children will be placed in harms way? It has been proven that only about 2% of all abuse allegations are false, it has also been proven that men make false allegations at a rate of sixteen times more often than women, and it has been proven that men who abuse their wives are 40-60 times more likely to abuse the children. It ahs also been shown in the last study (NIS) done that split up the types of families in the study (bio parents living together, mom with stepdad or boyfriend, dad with stepmom or girlfriend, single dads and single moms alone) that children were more at risk in a home with only a single father. Children are safest in intact bio family homes, or in gay/lesbian homes, followed by single moms and then married step families – according to the NIS-3. The NIS-4 did not break down the familial groups except to name step families, bio families, and single parents.

      And falling back on my original assertion, children ARE ignored in cases of abuse. There has been many studies done (most recently the ACE study) that shows children who witness dv of a parent do suffer long term harm. And when you consider that 90% of all dv victims are women and the male victims of dv are generally in same sex relationships – why would the legislator FORCE children into a very likely bad situation by saying they have to spend 1/2 of their time with each parent?

      Every year 58,000 children are placed into the unsupervised custody or contact with an abusive man. That is way too many and changing this law would increase that number exponentially.

      1. Jennifer, are you capable of leaving a comment on any story whatsoever without bringing up the subject of domestic violence? Seriously. You need to stop smearing every story with this topic – because the majority of families do not have this issue.

      2. Shame on you for your attitude against single fathers! I happen to have full custody of our son, and I can assure you that it’s me that brings him to school, the dentist, the doctor, and cooks his meals. And I work full time. Dad’s are just as capable as a mother to coparent. Senator Lee’s bill sets the starting point for custody at 50/50, which I’d completely logical. The judge retains discretion to change it as the situation warrants (as was done in my case).

      3. I don’t know what planet “Jennifer” is from, but nothing in Senator Lee’s bill will mandate 50/50 custody.

        It sets it as a starting point for the court to accept or modify on a case by case basis.

        Everybody cares about the safety of children. I know I do. To infer that fathers are incapable of raising and protecting their own children is insulting to parents everywhere.

        Shameful!

      4. Jennifer, I doubt your statistics. Please post links to unbiased studies which support your claims.

        The fact is that most fathers love their children just as much as mothers do, and that children need both parents equally. I’m sure there are a few bad apples, but that’s not a reason to penalize the vast majority of good fathers.

        1. Brian:
          Jennifer is obsessed with the issue of domestic violence and can conflate that subject with any other, no matter how tenuous the connection. If I were to post a recipe calling for bruised garlic, she would raise holy he** over it. In addition, she hates men and believes fathers should have no rights. To that end, she constantly posts phony stats that “support” her claims. In other words, don’t feed the trolls.

      5. WOW your facts are way off and wrong. Kids are better of with the father than the mother. over 80% serial killers and murderers grow up with single mothers without the fathers. 70% of child murderer parents are mothers.

      6. I see you have done a lot of reading. What you have not done is met the dads out there who are victims of policies that do not start with an assumption of 50/50. They WANT to be good dads. But there are just as many “bad women” out there who will lie, cheat, and steal.

        How would you feel if your ex automatically got custody of your kids and refused to let you see them or be a part of their lives, but you still had to pay 60% of your income to support them? What if she then took the kids to a different state? No visits, no phone calls. And all you wanted to do was be a good dad.

        I’m sure your answer to this is “well, that’s a minority, and we have laws to protect the majority of women who statistically-blah blah blah… good dads are being hurt by these laws. Good dads are not able to see their kids for YEARS of their childhood because of laws like these. Its time to stop making laws that allow bitter exes of BOTH SEXES to use children as bargaining chips.

  3. The so-called “women’s groups” who are against Senator Lee’s excellent bill are actually just far left-wing mouthpieces for the predatory litigating divorce attorneys who make a great living plundering families for their own financial gain.

    I’d be happy to introduce them to any of the hundreds of divorced women that I know who currently pay permanent, lifetime alimony to healthy, educated men after marriages as sort as ten years….or less.

    The Family Section of The Florida Bar likes their $2billion (a year) industry just the way it is….that’s why they have zero interest in fixing our outdated family court laws.

    Thank you to Governor Scott and our elected officials for your support!

  4. Women pay alimony too. Just say to yourself…what if I remarried and my new husband was paying his EX wife for life?? Wouldn’t like it too much huh?

  5. I couldn’t get past that men are “punishing women” with the new bill. Men deserve equal rights just as much as women. Stop hiding your heads in your aprons ladies and live in the real world!

  6. These outdated laws need to change. End permanent alimony now. Women and men should not have to continue to support their ex-spouse. It is ludicrous and recipients of permanent alimony should be ashamed.

  7. My husband got divorced in FL county court system that penalizes working professionals who work hard by forcing them to pay alimony forever (until one of them dies)! He has to pay permanent alimony to an able-bodied woman who is fully capable of working. She was a nurse, so she can find one of the many well paying job opportunities out there for healthcare trained individuals. She is willing to give up moving on, making her own money and building a new life for an alimony check every month. She should have been given duration alimony with a deadline to become self sufficient.

    People don’t understand the impact of permanent alimony. First, his share of the asssets are used to pay both their legal expenses during the divorce. And, thanks to “eager” attorneys, they file motion after motion to prolong the divorce and rack up the legal expenses. If you jointly own property with a mortgage and it is given to the alimony recipient, she can sabotage the sale of it. But don’t worry, the judge will force it into foreclosure so she can get her full alimony check. Then, if you divorced her due to financial irresponsibility, the judge will dismiss her share of the incredible debt, so the poor alimony payer has to shoulder that debt. If he remarries and tries to move on, his new wife’s assets can be factored in the alimony mess. I speak from experience! Of course, this is contingent on the personal opinions/judgements of judges across the FL county court systems because the Family Law statutes are vague and open to interpretation. Lastly, after he is totally cleaned out, he has to work for the rest of his life to pay an able-bodied person.

    I ask you, what did this poor person do to deserve a lifetime sentence? He or she married in Florida thinking he lived in a free country. Let’s correct this travesty. Alimony based on length of marriage and the ability of both parties to earn salaries is fair. Everyone deserves to move on with their lives as a result of divorce. Let’s make FL a place you want to marry and live with true equality.

    As a woman who grew up in the ‘70’s and supported NOW then, shame on you! You should be supporting these women to re-integrate themselves in the marketplace. Entitlements is NOT independence!

  8. What about the women like me who are forced to pay lifetime alimony of ^0% of my income, when he doesn’t need the income?

    1. And women like me! UniteWomen does speak for many hard working women who either pay alimony, or under the current laws, would have to pay alimony in the future. UniteWomen does not promote equality and self-sufficiency; instead, this group promotes unfairness and reliance upon others.

  9. I support the need for alimony reform. In addition to its archaic and outdated nature, the current law is unfair, profoundly unjust and subject to abuse. I moved to Florida at the urging of my now ex-wife who subsequently ended our marriage when she came out as a lesbian. I am now saddled with paying over half my income in permanent alimony to a woman who is as capable as I am of supporting herself. Even though she now can remarry, why would she do so and jeopardize the monthly payments she will receive forever? I have since remarried but my new family and elderly parents are consequently penalized financially. And to add insult to injury, I am obligated to ensure the alimony I pay by maintaining a substantial life insurance policy with the ex-wife as sole beneficiary! Our current alimony law makes me a victim, rendering me an indentured servant to the ex for the rest of my life. My situation is not unique. This could happen to anyone you know. The public should contact their legislators and voice their support for alimony reform now.

  10. This isn’t just a men’s issue. There are many thousands of Florida women , like myself, who pay lifetime alimony. Why doesn’t this group recognize us? We need help too!

  11. Our country was founded on certain principles. Get an education, work hard and succeed. Florida’s current alimony laws go completely against what our country was founded on. The laws (and attorneys and judges) penalize the workers because they have the “ability to pay” and rewards the non-workers because they choose to remain “needy.” Current law removes the incentive from both spouses to move on with their lives. If the worker (male or female) works harder and makes more money, the non-working spouse can go after more alimony and have the working spouse pay all attorney fees. If the working spouse remarries, they can take the new spouses income, add that to the workers income, which now becomes “household income.” This new “household income” can be used to modify the alimony upward. If the non-working alimony recipient spouse marries, they lose their alimony. If they get a job, training or follow a career path, they risk decreasing or losing their alimony. These incentives hold the divorced couple in limbo. Nobody wants to improve their lives for risk of losing money. As our gender gap is shrinking, more women are pulled into this insane system. It’s time for workers to unite and call our legislators to change Florida’s outdated laws. Yes, there are disabled men and women who need support, but by far this is the minority. Most alimony recipients of working age are still capable, just completely unmotivated. Write your legislators!

    1. does anyone know the difference between earned and entitled?who let you get that degree and build a business ? who took care of your laundry? your car? your clogged drains?your mother’s birthday? get it? earned. let’s not get into the price tag for guilt sex…these boys will never be able to repay women. alimony or not.

      1. Yes, I know the difference between earned and entitled. I got that degree before I met my ex-wife. She HINDERED my career by causing trouble at my workplace with her constant phone calls and manipulation. I excelled IN SPITE of her interference!

        I cleaned the bathrooms, I mopped the floors, I vacuumed, I did the dishes, I cleaned the pool, I trimmed the bushes, I mowed the grass, I repaired things when they broke, I maintained the vehicles. All while she took naps and did her best to avoid our kids… because they were too stressful for her.

        I spent every evening with my kids, helping them do their homework while my ex-wife sat on her butt watching TV. She didn’t even join us for dinner, because it was too stressful for her!

        Guilt sex? I couldn’t stand my ex-wife. I only stayed with her for as long as I did for my kids. They needed protection from her crazy antics.

        And, because I stayed… I got a lifetime sentence.

      2. To: “no more boy whining”…

        If you think that alimony payors are upset about “the price tag for guilt sex”…

        I’ve got news for you. Prostitutes are cheaper than alimony, and the sex is better too.

        Oh, and you just compared yourself to a prostitute!!! LOL!

      3. Who did my laundry? My oldest daughter.

        Who took care of my car? I did.

        Who unclogged the drains? I did.

        My mother’s birthday? My mom died before I married my ex-wife. I never forgot my mom’s birthday. I didn’t need a wife to remind me about that. Oh… and before my mom died, she told me what she thought about my girlfriend (whom I later married despite my mother’s advice).

        My mom had NEVER given her opinion about ANY of my previous girlfriends. But, she felt strongly enough about Elizabeth that she voiced her opinion!!!

        My mom’s advice was to DUMP ELIZABETH AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

        God, I wish I had listened to my mom.

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