Alimony legislation dead for 2017, sponsor says

divorce

Good news for opponents of this year’s alimony overhaul, and bad news for its supporters: The bills are dead for the year.

Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, the Naples Republican who’s carrying the Senate version (SB 412), on Wednesday said the chair of its first committee of reference has refused to hear the bill. Rene Garcia chairs the Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs.

“Chairman Garcia determined that he was not interested in hearing it and I respect that decision,” Passidomo said. “I don’t think leadership weighed in on it.”

Garcia was not immediately available for comment after Wednesday’s floor session.

Passidomo also noted the House bill (HB 283), sponsored by Lakeland Republican state Rep. Colleen Burton, also has not gotten a hearing. And with House subcommittees wrapping up work this week, that virtually dooms the legislation there.

Burton was unavailable; the House was still in session Wednesday afternoon.

As filed, the bills would have toughened the standards by which alimony is granted and modified. That’s despite unsuccessful tries in the last few years.

In a nutshell: Former spouses who wrote the checks have said permanent alimony in particular, or “forever alimony,” wasn’t fair to them. Their exes have shot back that they shouldn’t be penalized, for example, after staying home to raise the children and then having trouble re-entering the workplace.

Passidomo, an attorney, said this year’s bills were hobbled by a misunderstanding of their effect.

“That was, that you couldn’t get ‘permanent’ alimony (under the bill) but that’s not really true,” she said. “Someone in a longstanding marriage is still going to get alimony permanently if the court awards it.”

Among other things, the current legislation contains a guideline that says judges should consider an ex-spouse’s “services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party” when calculating an alimony award.

A judge can go outside the suggested alimony amount under the bill “only if the court considers all of the factors … and makes specific written findings concerning the relevant factors that justify” the deviation.

“This bill would have gone a long way in curtailing some of the gamesmanship” in fighting for and against alimony in court, Passidomo said. “Somebody who is entitled to alimony should get it and the person who needs to pay it should pay it. I’ve never believed in changing that.”

Passidomo said she plans to file the bill again next year.

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]


27 comments

  • Jan Killilea

    March 29, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    The voice of Retired Judges, Collaborative Divorce attorneys, the National Organization of Women just to name a few, and the opponents of this bill have been heard loud and clear. See you next year!

    • Michel A Buhler

      March 30, 2017 at 3:44 pm

      Judges, Attorneys and NOW – all big beneficiaries of unclear alimony laws – I am not so sure their voices have been heard but rather their campaign contributions.
      Families, children… I don’t think their voices have been heard because if they did, they would tell you of parents not speaking to each other after years of being apart just because one feels entitled to the sweat and labor of the other and a system that perpetuates this is left standing to benefit those attorneys, judges, and NOW.

    • Jonathan Shatz

      April 1, 2017 at 12:53 am

      You mean the voices of judges Retired from reality, lawyers who are collaborators with themselves for $300!anvhour and the National Organization of Winers…Yes you will see me next year. I never heard their voices because the bill was never heard.

      • Deborah Leff-Kelapire

        April 1, 2017 at 11:57 am

        Agreed Jonathan. It’s only one judge, Doyel, who probably never gave a man a fair trial in his life. And the lawyers? Some are now charging $650/hour. They are out of control and need caps on fees.

  • Glen Gibellina

    March 29, 2017 at 11:46 pm

    It’s a corrupt system
    The complete Family Courts need to be dismantled
    Lives ruined, hearts broken, bank accounts drained
    The list goes on ……

  • Charles Reinertsen

    March 30, 2017 at 12:58 am

    The winners are those Family Law Attorneys who continue to create family conflict to increase billable hours and the politicians who receive significant contributions from the attorneys. The losers are the Florida workers paying permanent alimony to able bodied recipients, the children caught in the middle, the recipients themselves as they are discouraged from careers or re-marriage by existing Florida alimony law, and the state as it loses revenue because fewer Floridians will become workers. It takes a generation, but archaic alimony laws like Florida still has are slowly killing marriage. The family unit is the foundation of our society. It takes two people to make a marriage, but only one person to create a divorce in Florida. Shame on Sen. Garcia for not even bringing alimony reform to the table for discussion. I wonder where his campaign contributions came from? It’s always about the money, not the families. Watch marriage fade away over the next generation. The children of divorce are learning the consequences of marriage in Florida. Sen. Garcia, you let down Florida workers and Florida families. The voters will remember.

  • Robert Sell

    March 30, 2017 at 6:29 am

    While those being punished by unfair alimony laws need to see reform, it’s the elephant in the room that needs to be dealt with as well and unlike alimony can be dealt with by individuals.
    That elephant is the state marriage license. A state marriage license really marries you to the state and makes the state a 3rd and “primary” party in that marriage. This has already been acknowledged by the judiciary that you are or will be married to.
    A state marriage license effectively supersedes all constitutional guarantees and federal laws that oppose it and places your entire life, liberty, and happiness, into the hands of the state family law judiciary whose main function is to generate income for the legal profession based on vague and nebulous laws and a $35 marriage license.
    While it’s too late for many, it’s not too late to save our children and grandchildren from this monster. We must teach them NEVER SIGN A STATE MARRIAGE LICENSE! What is your reasoning for believing that you need one? Answer that question honestly and you will understand why it’s the biggest mistake you will ever make and how you have been brainwashed into thinking you need one.

  • Robert Sell

    March 30, 2017 at 9:16 am

    If reform of alimony laws is ever to be accomplished, there is a need to stop trying to appease those who benefit from them and describe plainly what it is they are benefiting from. Specifically, that alimony is a debt in perpetuity that is fabricated by the state between two individuals based on a private relationship that they once had.

    The basis for this debt has it’s foundation in a litany of fabricated conditions that are universally applied and designed to favor only one of these individuals. Plainly, one of these individuals is being forced to labor, often until death, for the other without regard for their rights under federal law, the Constitution, or basic human rights. One only has to read federal laws against peonage to realize alimony laws are in violation even though those laws were part of post slavery protections. Also, non-payment of a fabricated alimony obligation results in imprisonment and coercion by state actors for a crime that is prohibited by laws against debtor imprisonment.

    You state legislators said you were going to protect and defend the liberty and rights of your constituents under the Constitution and federal laws. If you can’t do that, you should not be in office.

  • Michel A Buhler

    March 30, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    How the Chair of the Senate Committee of Children, Families and Elders does not even put this bill on its docket so that the broader Senate can vote on it is beyond the pale. Today’s alimony laws, which are both anachronistic and do not even provide for alimony payors to retire, are unfair and create endless litigation. This law deals only with alimony, establishes clear formulas and time-lines within a which has discretion to award alimony depending on the circumstances, and defines retirement (at 67) as a substantial change in circumstances allowing for modification. Who opposes it – your divorce lawyers. In fact, Ray Rafool who represented my ex, paid $500 to the campaign of the judge who heard my modification case no more than a month after the judge was assigned to the case. Although nobody could say that such payment had anything to do with the ruling against me in my modification action (my income fell 78% after being divorced), nobody can say it didn’t. What I know is that it stinks and that judges and divorce attorneys have each other’s back. It now appears that Senator Garcia, of the “FAMILIES” committee is against this bill. Why would that be?

  • Tammy

    March 30, 2017 at 3:56 pm

    This bill was killed because it was a bogus bill to start with. Zero protections for the payers and second spouses. More money going into the pockets of lawyers. NOW had nothing to do with the death of this bill. We REFORMERS killed the bogus bill put together by the hack Alan Frisher. Make no mistake, we are gunning for you. We are coming back with reform. The alimony recipients will NEVER BE FREE. WE ARE COMING FOR YOU. You will ALWAYS be looking over your shoulder for the next round. You have been fore warned. Get educated. Get a skill. Get a new husband. Whatever it takes to support yourself. Because mark my words….YOU WILL NEED TO SUPPORT YOURSELVES SOON.

    • steve

      March 30, 2017 at 9:06 pm

      I understand your frustration Tammy but I believe that Alan has been working very hard to get SOMETHING passed. It’s been a largely thankless job he’s been doing to try to get the support of the house and senate each year, and then be blocked by some infighting between those 2 bodies or the governor. I too was disappointed the 2013 bill got vetoed and was then watered down ever year after that. We still didn’t even have any real assurance that Gov Scott would have signed this bill. What a mess!

  • frank

    March 30, 2017 at 7:14 pm

    this is an unfair situation in the termination of a marriage and needs to have a serious look at reform. for whatever reason having to pay alimony till death is way to much. the courts need to have strict guidelines on alimony and child support ( if you think they do now then your out of touch ) it should be like paying a fine, you pay your due and then that’s it

  • John Fromularo

    March 30, 2017 at 9:45 pm

    Wow. Some interesting comments. Mine are simple. I want married here but was divorced here. The state decided I was guilty of something and burdened me for life. My trial was an expensive joke which was simply a rubber stamp of previous cases. Fairness doesn’t exist in current law and we have lost our rights as citizens. I am a retired Marine and although I fought for our freedom, mine was taken from me. It is a falsehood that you can appeal your case because the judges will​ not overturn your judge. There are no standards by which to judge if the outcome was fair. No clear guidelines, formulas, etc. If divorce rates are 50%of marriages, then this law absolutely needs to be reformed now. This will happen when we have legislators and a governor who are not bought by lobbyists and the Florida bar.

  • Jan Killilea

    March 30, 2017 at 9:56 pm

    “We are gunning for you.” “You have been forewarned.” The angry mob has spoken! The mean girls are really living up to their reputation! Really?

    • Tammy

      March 31, 2017 at 6:23 am

      That’s right Jan. You’re leeching days are numbered. 😃 Start thinking of your future as an independent woman. If you were so valuable and good at home making then do it professionally. Start a errand running or home cleaning business. Better yet get into design and do staging for real estate companies. If you used your brain for good instead of bad you wouldn’t even have to worry about alimony.

      • Jan Killilea

        March 31, 2017 at 10:12 pm

        I work two jobs, but of course you are too busy making threats. You are pitiful, to say the least.

  • Bill Perkins

    March 30, 2017 at 10:11 pm

    There is many fake news about permanent alimony recipients brought by old fashioned Hollywood stereotypes, i.e. Hubby leaves wife for younger secretary and wife was a stay at home mom. This was true in ‘Leave it to Beaver’ era but has not been true for couple of decades. The stay at home mom who forfeited her career is remnants of a bygone era like the dinosaurs.
    No one is against alimony it’s the fair thing to do. But permanent alimomy is not lifetime fairness. It’s based on an unsustainable premise that the payer bears the burden of paying regardless of whether they lose their job, wants a less stressful career change or simply wants to retire. Things that millions of people do every year. But a lifetime payer does not have that option otherwise they are in contempt and go to jail.
    In the meantime the recipient can live without consequences, without financial responsibility and with their live in partner while the payer supports them.
    This is not freedom. A marriage under this system only ends physically but you are still married financially forever.
    This creates lifetime animosity within the family.
    Florid lifetime recipients makes it sound that total devastation will occur if lifetimes alimony is eliminated. Well there are many states where permanent alimony doesn’t exist and we don’t see people starving or dying on the streets. How do I know this? Because if it was true, opponents of alimony reform would be spouting these statistics over and over again. They don’t because it doesn’t exist.

    • Deborah Leff-Kelapire

      March 31, 2017 at 2:24 pm

      You are correct, Bill Perkins. Most women initiate divorce. More and more women are out there in the workforce, and when that happens, they have no qualms being unfaithful or thinking the grass is greener then file for divorce. Then if they are the lesser earner and married long enough, they hit the lifetime alimony jackpot. That’s more of what the reality is like in 2017.

  • Sandra Young

    March 30, 2017 at 11:37 pm

    What about the “ex” that is the recipient of alimony but has a boyfriend living in the house that was provided by the “ex” paying the alimony?? Somehow that just doesn’t right!!

  • Charles Reinertsen

    March 31, 2017 at 9:29 am

    For those who want alimony reform who have never been to Tallahassee, worked with state legislators and their staff, experienced the frustration of the ignorance so many legislators have of the inequitable results of current alimony law or the blatant refusal of some legislators to even discuss the issue, it’s easy to complain about the progress, or lack of progress, we have had with alimony reform. I’m sure there are many people who feel like Tammy. They have no idea what it takes to change a law in Florida! Unless you develop an army of 50,000 or more, willing to write their legislators, track the voting records of the legislators and make the injustice of permanent alimony widely known, we have had to work within the system. Alan Frisher has done a remarkable job, knowing what the resistance to alimony reform is in Tallahassee. He has developed credibility with many legislators and their staff. In Tallahassee it’s much about who you know. It’s not about families or finding an equitable solution to a failed marriage. Resistance to reform is all about money. Tammy, and others who share her view, please rally the troops. Build tens of thousands of alimony soldiers, then make a noise. It would be much faster to join forces with those people and organizations already working in Tallahassee for alimony reform. Agree on what to ask for, will it pass, will the governor (whoever it is) sign it, and will it hold up in court. Together, as a united front, we will make dramatic advances in finding an equitable end to a failed marriage. If we don’t, people (both men and women) living off of the hard work of an ex-spouse, will continue to abuse the intent of existing alimony laws in Florida.

    • Bob

      March 31, 2017 at 10:53 am

      Exactly Chuck. Now you know how Dick Lindsey and I felt about being criticized for not making progress……..after we hammered away on all fronts at the issue for several years. We were told that “the Bar has a couple million dollars to fight you off”. We learned very quickly who owns Tallahassee.

    • Deborah Leff-Kelapire

      March 31, 2017 at 2:36 pm

      Chuck, if you’re serious about getting this done right, the missing component of public education MUST take place. The stories must be told and they aren’t. Working behind the scenes will only get you so far. Public opinion and social policy need to change and the only way for that to happen is with education.

      Why do we study history in school? So hopefully society learns from a past mistakes. The only way for balanced laws to be in place is to learn what is happening to real people.

      If I didn’t know what was really happening and what was really the case, I too might think this is just a bunch of wealthy men complaining about having to pay their exes. Clearly, I know the real deal and the real consequences of the current laws, and so must everyone else.

  • Deborah Leff-Kelapire

    March 31, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    Let’s address a few issues.
    1. This bill is very weak and ambiguous, helping attorneys keep their litigation going strong. It’s good that this bill is dead. Senator Garcia did everyone a favor. Instead of trying to get legislation passed, any legislation and call it alimony reform, it is best be patient and wait until governor Scott is out of office. We need someone like former governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts who had the courage to sign fully retroactive alimony reform into law.
    2. In our late teens and early twenties, we set our sights on a course of education (or lack thereof) and career which will dictate the amount of earning power command (or not). If one marries “up” and enjoys a wealthier lifestyle, then upon dissolution, they are able to enjoy at least half of those marital assets. Then can then receive durational alimony to revamp whatever career they originally set out on, or if more ambitious, a new career with higher earning potential. This is not 1850 where women are denied education or career opportunities. Women have equal or greater access to everything a man has access to including earning potential. Those bellyaching and demanding of lifetime alimony including organizations like NOW and LWV are an embarrassment to normal women everywhere. Let’s call a spade a spade. These people are simply lazy folks who want to maintain the lifestyle without having to lift a finger. No one that leaves a job gets to keep their full salary after termination. Alimony should be like a severance package- a limited bridge to your next endeavor.
    3. Lifetime alimony truly stunts the recipient and keeps them stagnated in life. Imagine some of the members of the “first wives club” are divorced for years and years, some more than a decade. Heck, I was remarried just a few years after my divorce because I wanted to live and enjoy life. These people cannot move on, are obsessed with getting money from their exes, and pathetic individuals. At first glance, one might feel sorry for them, but after a while, you just want to kick them in the posterior, tell them to get a life, grow up, and move on.
    4. Why has Florida not yet seen alimony reform? It is because of a huge void in public education as to what permanent alimony is for the payer. Suppose one is 60 years old and loses their job, as so many do. Do judges terminate alimony? Most don’t. Do they care about the payer? Nope. They simply demand that the payer keep paying from the last of their share of the assets until they are flat broke. Having spoken to hundreds of payers, I can write hundreds of stories about men and women suffering this fate. If the legislators and the governor knew what I knew, there would be no issue of passing a law similar to the Texas model where alimony is capped at ten years and that is only after a 30 year marriage. Education is a necessity to prepare for the 2019 legislative session so that public awareness grows and people understand how antiquated and lopsided the current laws truly are.

  • Terrance Power

    March 31, 2017 at 2:31 pm

    The 2017 Alimony Reform bill was flawed from the start.

    We respect and thank Senator Passidomo and Rep. Burton for their work on this issue, but a watered-down bill simply to appease Governor Scott isn’t what the tens of thousands of families who are suffering under our ridiculous and outdated laws want.

    The framework of reform is found in the original bill that Governor Scott vetoed. That will be our blueprint moving forward.

    There needs to be some additions to it to cap attorney fees in the same manner as probate is capped (as suggested by Sen. Ring a few sessions ago) to remove the profit incentive for predatory litigating divorce attorneys, a social security retirement benefit offset to alimony obligations, and protection for the rare and elusive “older unskilled ex-spouse who was abandoned after a 25+ year marriage” who is often cited as the reason not to fix our alimony laws. We’ll take care of that situation under the 2019 Alimony Reform Bill as well.

    Texas alimony laws are spot on. We need to at least be similar to that state.

    The original bill that was vetoed by Governor Scott will do that for all of us and protect our children if they choose to get married. Right now, it makes no sense to get legally married in Florida. No way. And that’s sad.

    We thank Chairman Garcia for hearing our concerns and passing on this bill, and would also respectfully ask the bill sponsors to stand down in 2018 on this issue. We will be working to elect supportive state officials who can help you obtain real reform in the spring of 2019.

    By the way, do not contribute to so-called “alimony reform groups”. Their track record shows that it’s a waste of your money. Save your dollars to help elect legislators and a governor who will fix these broken laws.

    • Deborah Leff-Kelapire

      March 31, 2017 at 2:37 pm

      Spot on Terry Power.

  • Nichole Taylor

    March 31, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    The way alimony is…. the state should be ashamed of itself, dependents that refuse independence should be ashamed of theirselves, and the law makers making money off of the families torn apart and lives ruined should be ashamed of themselves. Alimony is private welfare, period. You have laws and regulations, securities and fraud finders for public welfare, why is alimony not getting the same? Alimony was made in a time when things were not equal, when it was income or no income. All people should have to work, all people should have some independence. This system is so corrupt and so unjust. I am a woman, I work, I go to school, and I raise INDEPENDENT from all welfare 3 well mannered, beautiful, thriving, and independent children. Collectors need incentives for motivation, independence, and pride, like an end to the free paycheck. This needs to change NOW!

  • AL Hicks

    March 31, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    This bill was nothing but an invitation to litigation and profiteering by lawyers, and did nothing but delay real relief and reform. The “death” of this bill reflects the distaste reformers have for its ineffective language and timid measures.

    Simply stated, current alimony practices in Florida violate constitutional protections. There is no valid reason why one adult should be forever responsible for another adult for life (except in the case where physical abuse may have resulted in physical disability). All alimony needs to be of limited duration and provide a path to emancipation for both parties. Anything less binds two individuals in what is essentially a battle to the death, with each party laying waste to their own lives, and the innocent lives around them in a futile effort to escape permanent dependence or exploitation. It is indefensible that there are so many spouses that have been collecting alimony for more years than their marriage lasted.

    Alimony reform will come, and should come for the sake of equity and equality. Recipient spouses should prepare for that eventuality, as they should have prepared for their independence from the beginning.

Comments are closed.


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