House alimony reform clears final panel

divorce alimony reform (Large)

A bill aimed at effectively ending permanent alimony is heading to the House floor after clearing its final committee of reference on Thursday.

The Judiciary Committee approved the measure (HB 455), sponsored by Republican state Rep. Colleen Burton of Lakeland, by a 14-3 vote.

Chiefly, the measure limits judges’ discretion in awarding alimony by providing guidelines for how much an ex-spouse should get and for how long.

The idea is that “no matter where you live, you can anticipate you will receive equal treatment,” Burton said.

Her bill picked up a key Democratic supporter in state Rep. Jared Moskowitz of Coral Springs, a self-described “child of divorce.”

He said he knows from first-hand experience that “an indefinite financial relationship between two divorced parents is bad for the children.”

Lawmakers heard from Tarie MacMillan of Wimauma, a 65-year-old woman paying permanent alimony for 16 years. Her husband, a former insurance executive, decided to stop working and lives on 65 percent of her income, she said.

Alimony “needs to be a formula,” said MacMillan, a jewelry dealer. “It’s so wrong for one adult to live off another for so long.”

Others continued to insist that the changes will be at the cost of mothers who opted to leave the workforce and raise children. After a breakup, they have trouble finding jobs and depend on alimony, some as their sole support.

“There’s no consideration for a stay-at-home mom who has no work experience,” activist Cynthia Wheeler of Palm Beach County said.

Wheeler’s recent appearance in Tallahassee resulted in her being ejected from a Senate committee when she refused to leave the lectern. On Thursday, she again spoke over her allotted one minute and until two sergeants-at-arms turned off her microphone.

It’s the third time in recent years the Legislature has attempted to change Florida’s alimony law. A companion bill, sponsored by Republican Kelli Stargel of Lakeland, has not yet been heard in the Senate.

Another family-law bill moving this session is SB 250, sponsored by Brandon Republican Tom Lee, that would change state law on child-sharing. It would create an assumption that equal time-sharing for both parents after a divorce is in the best interest of a child.

Jim Rosica

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at [email protected]


18 comments

  • Reformers Lie

    February 4, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    It’s a well known fact that Tarie MacMillan has the means to pay alimony to her ex husband who happens to be severely disabled. She needs to stop playing to victim and alimony reform poster woman. Under current laws, she can easily file for modification, but I guess she’s making plenty of money to sustain her alimony payments.

  • Amazed at the level of stupidity I see

    February 4, 2016 at 8:43 pm

    Some people are very dishonest when they share their stories. Tarie has to pay 65% of her income to her DISABLED spouse who was in a severe car wreck right before their divorce. And the only reason she has to pay 65% of her income is because she refused to pay anything for a very long time. Federal law provides that if you fall behind (are in ‘arrears’) you will have to pay as much as 65% of your income until you are caught up. Tarie is self employed and was at one point making as much as 480,000 a year according to her divorce and appeals records. Compare this to her DISABLED ex husband’s zero income. As far as getting the same result no matter where you live, do these representatives not realize that it costs moe to live in say Orlando, than it does in Bithlo? Or more in Tallahassee than it does in Ocala? Did the creator of this law even think of putting in COLA raises, or even accounting for differences in the cost of living from one area to the next? One area might be less expensive to live in, but job opportunities are far below state averages, while the next area has many available jobs, but the cost to reside there is extremely high. This is bad for Florida families.

  • Boo

    February 5, 2016 at 7:28 am

    65% is huge. What about disability instead of relying on total alimony forever ? Just because there was a divorce doesn’t mean the payor doesn’t deserve to have any $ left or a new spouse. I agree if one is ordered to pay it but I don’t agree with permanent life sentence due to a mistake in who you married.

  • Thomas Pine

    February 5, 2016 at 8:51 am

    I have a very close friend that is paying alimony for life, they never had any children, she has always worked. He has an average paying job as a lock operator at the Saint Lucy Cannel, and this is called fair

  • Lori Barkus

    February 5, 2016 at 8:54 am

    The alimony reform bill would provide much needed certainty to divorcing spouses. As the testimony showed, the current law does not provide certainty for stay at home parents. Situations can change, and it is virtually impossible for one person to support another indefinitely.

    • Felisa Kahn

      February 6, 2016 at 9:58 am

      Lori I agree with you 100%!!! Also, I practice in 3 different counties and there is a need for some level of uniformity.

      • Reformers Lie

        February 6, 2016 at 3:26 pm

        Another lawyer who has a stake in making a large profit from this “reform”.

        More modifications = more litigations = more billable hours.

        Lawyers + Reform = MONEY from all litigants. WAKE UP LEGISLATORS and VOTERS, FOLLOW THE MONEY!

        • A L Hicks

          February 7, 2016 at 9:48 am

          And that differs from the current status quo how? At least with a defined range, there is less incentive to just “go for broke” and continually litigate trying to get *all* the $, as happens now.

  • Mary

    February 5, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    I have differing views in some areas of this. Now if a spouse is disabled before divorce or becomes ill and the other spouse can’t handle the situation and bales..wants a Divorce then I feel they should help their ex out. The vows, “In Sickness and In Health” come to mind. Have witnessed this behavior before. Now if both parties are healthy and capable of working then , they should do so and worry about their own finances. A stay at home parent, needs to go out and get a job. A presumption of 50/50 shared parenting time should stand from the moment of separation. Both parents should be responsible for finances under their own roof with a sharing of of expenditures outside their respective homes! A “Temporary” assist can be looked into if there was a stay at home parent trying to get a job or one who helped the other parent achieve a higher paying job through education.

  • Time for Fair Alimony Reform

    February 5, 2016 at 6:12 pm

    Seems the writer of the two posts is, perhaps, a current permanent alimony participant. This bill is fair to both parties. One set of rules should be applied across all counties in Florida. I applaud this bill.

  • A L Hicks

    February 5, 2016 at 7:45 pm

    And what of the disabled obligor, paying his ex 90% of his pension, plus *on the $400 he has keft), her supplemental insurance, a half million dollar “incentive to terminate” policy, another for *her* children, plus half her medical bills, $485/more for her car – which he’s already paid for in his bankruptcy – all on the $400 he has left. He finally gets disability *after* the divorce and she wants that too. These days, alimony is nothing but indentured servitude, which in any civilized nation would not only be illegal, but a crime against humanity. As for disability, there should be a transitional period, but if the obliging spouse didn’t cause it, I don’t see why it should be the obliges responsibility. When you marry, you are an adult, and you need to be adult enough to make adult decisions that are beneficial to your future, not expect someone else, no matter how well meaning, to make them on your behalf. I’ve earned 70% of a man’s pay all my life, I am strong, independent, and beholden to none. Stand on your own two feet.

    • Paul Witherspoon

      February 6, 2016 at 11:07 pm

      Sadly this is the norm not the exception.

  • Raymond Carminelli

    February 6, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    I pay 41% of my salary or $18,000.00 to an individual with a full time job. Kids are adults. I have other children that I can barely support! It is time for changes!

  • Paul Witherspoon

    February 6, 2016 at 11:05 pm

    “There’s no consideration for a stay-at-home mom who has no work experience,” activist Cynthia Wheeler of Palm Beach County said. That is all there is now. Most families have both parents working. The present law was written for Ozzie and Harriet not todays families. change must come.

    • Reformers Lie

      February 8, 2016 at 8:45 am

      Not all families have two parents working, there are still those with only one working.

      • Paul Witherspoon

        February 9, 2016 at 10:14 am

        I have no problem with alimony for stay at home moms.

        • Thomas Pine

          February 10, 2016 at 6:38 am

          I have no problem with alimony for stay at home mom’s either. What about all the men or women that pay lifetime alimony with no children involved and no disabilities

Comments are closed.


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