Amid jeers, Senate alimony bill clears first committee

divorce alimony reform (Large)

A contentious bill meant to remake what critics call Florida’s antiquated alimony law and end “forever alimony” was cleared Tuesday by a Senate panel.

The Judiciary Committee, the first of its three review panels, OK’d the measure (SB 668) by a 6-4 vote after impassioned comment for and against the proposal, even after speakers were limited to 30 seconds.

That also was after state Sen. Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican, moved to vote on the bill by 5:50 p.m., only 10 minutes after the bill was called up.

At first, the motion passed largely on a party-line vote, though committee Chairman Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a Miami Republican, voted against it. But de la Portilla then struck the motion down, saying staff reminded him such a motion needs a two-thirds vote for approval, which it didn’t get.

The final vote took place at 5:59 p.m., amid hollering and jeers from the bill’s opponents. De la Portilla also voted against the bill.

It’s the third time in recent years the Legislature has attempted to change the way Florida judges can award alimony.

For decades, ex-spouses – largely men – have said what they call “forever alimony” isn’t fair, and their former mates – mostly women – counter that they shouldn’t be penalized for having trouble re-entering the work world because they stayed home to raise children.

Republican state Sen. Kelli Stargel of Lakeland, the bill’s sponsor, told colleagues that it would provide guidelines for judges to modify alimony awards but would not automatically end or reduce alimony for most ex-spouses.

“Please understand, it doesn’t abolish alimony; it doesn’t take alimony away,” she said.

The bill is bitterly opposed by women’s advocates, including the National Organization for Women, and championed by Florida Family Law Reform and similar men’s rights groups.

“Supporters of the bill say it will provide ‘certainty,’ ” said Florida NOW spokeswoman Barbara Devane. “It ‘certainly’ will throw thousands of women and their children into poverty.”

Its equally controversial House companion (HB 455), sponsored by Republican state Rep. Colleen Burton of Lakeland, has been cleared for the floor.

Similarly, it’s aimed at effectively ending permanent alimony, limiting 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 has said.

A related family-law bill is heading to the Senate floor, mandating a presumption of equal child custody between parents after a divorce.

That legislation, sponsored by Brandon Republican Tom Lee, creates a legal assumption that 50-50 time-sharing is in the best interest of a child. Under his proposal, both parents “enter the courthouse door on equal footing,” he said.

It includes a list of 22 factors that judges can consider to tip the scales, including “amount of time to be spent traveling” between parents, the “frequency that a parent would likely leave the child in the care of a nonrelative,” and even the “reasonable preference of the child.”


Jim Rosica ([email protected]) covers the Florida Legislature, state agencies and courts from Tallahassee. 

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]


3 comments

  • Owen Thomas

    February 22, 2016 at 6:05 pm

    The complaints that it will put women into poverty are without merit. These women need to support themselves, they have no right to a man’s support once they leave the marriage! Their choices should not be paid for by other people! And as far as children being “thrown into poverty”, that’s what child support and shared custody are for. It’s ironic that feminist groups like NOW want women to be “independent”…at the expense of men. Don’t any of them see the hypocrisy there? And how is a man supposed to support a new wife if he’s stuck supporting the one who abandoned the marriage? Alimony has always been an abuse of men, and welfare for women, and it needs to end.

  • Maurice A. Ramirez

    March 29, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    Governor Rick Scott should sign SB 668 into law.

    Four years ago, my ex-wife and I divorced. She petitioned for permanent alimony. Fair is fair, we were married for 18 years.

    Currently I am paying $1000 per month, HALF of my Social Security Disability Income, as permanent alimony to my ex-spouse. My ex-spouse is a healthy, educated and employed PHYSICIAN.

    She receives HALF of my Social Security Disability Income. Meanwhile, my ex-spouse pays ME less than $100 per month child support. This is not nearly fair.

    Current alimony laws are extremely inequitable. Child support is formula based and time limited, but alimony amounts and durations are at the whim of the judge.

    The same judge who awarded me child support until our son is 18, awarded my physician ex-wife permanent alimony despite her greater income.

    Alimony discourages both the payor and recipient from working, achieving their potential or remarriage. Temporary assistance is certainly needed by some to transition from married to single, but it must be equitable and certainly not permanent.

    This is a fairness issue, not a man/woman issue, not a rich/poor issue, not a young/old issue and not a black/white issue. Men and women are equally able to work in today’s society and equally able to pay alimony. Our society has changed and so must our laws.

  • Juan Bird

    May 26, 2016 at 2:49 am

    Why should, for instance, a man pay alimony to a woman who was disloyal to him before initiating a divorce from him? Doesn’t make sense! Kick that ***** to the curb without a single penny if that’s the case! And one of the reasons why I am for the absolute abolition of alimony!

Comments are closed.


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