Lawmakers consider pros and cons of alimony

alimony fight
No bill yet, but alimony reform is back on the table for Florida

The 2020 version of the battle over permanent alimony permitted under Florida law began Thursday in a Florida House committee with reform proponents denouncing the “life sentences” of permanent alimony and others charging that the concept is being misconstrued.

The House Civil Justice Subcommittee is taking up the nearly annual contentious matter marked by the notion that Florida is one of only a few states in the country where judges may award permanent alimony.

On Thursday Boca Raton marital and family law attorney Alan Elkins, speaking for Florida Family Fairness, which annually spearheads alimony reform pushes, denounced permanent alimony as unfair, charging it creates a “culture of dependence” for those receiving it and a “life sentence” for payers. He contended that Florida’s guidelines are so broadly interpreted by individual judges that the questions of how much alimony should be paid, and for how long, vary tremendously from judge to judge, even within any given judicial circuit, and shouldn’t and needn’t do so.

“It’s unreasonable. There’s no consistency to it. It’s not fair,” Elkins said.

He was countered mainly by Andrea Reid, also a Boca Raton marital and family law attorney, who spoke for the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar Association, who called some of Elkins’ points “just patently not accurate.” She contended that proposed reforms that seek to impose mathematical equations would negate a court’s consideration of a variety of personalized factors now mandated for consideration when alimony is set.

“What I take exception to is this concept that there are no guidelines. We have very specific guidelines. What they are not is a mathematical equation,” Reid said. “We trust the judiciary.”

The Florida Legislature has taken up proposals to revise or replace permanent alimony almost annually for several years, and nearly did so in 2016 before then-Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the bill. The last overhaul of the state’s alimony laws came in 2010. They were tweaked in 2011.

There is no alimony bill filed for the 2020 Florida Legislative Session. Yet the House Civil Justice Subcommittee, chaired by Republican state Rep. Bob Rommel of Naples, held a workshop to consider crafting such legislation for 2020.

“We understand this is an extremely sensitive issue on both sides,” Rommel said Thursday.

Barbara DeVane, lobbyist for the Florida National Organization for Women, welcomed Reid’s comments, contending that in previous years the Florida Bar had not been so allied with NOW’s opposition to the proposals to abolish or water down permanent alimony in Florida.

“I have heard so many terrible stories from so many women I call ‘the first wives’ that I speak for session after session when the bills come up,” DeVane said.

“Every year people talk about all the stakeholders coming together for a bill. No. The women that I speak for are, to me, the most important stakeholders discussion,” DeVande added.

Alicia del Rey of Marion County, also representing Florida Family Fairness, turned traditional gender roles upside down when she spoke of how she’s being forced to pay permanent alimony to a man whom she said was an abusive and irresponsible husband who “squandered our assets” and has never been able to hold a job.

“I would have never imagined that I would be paying permanent alimony to my abuser ex-husband and be forced to pay him for the rest of my life,” she said, recalling how in 2011 she finally got the courage, after 30 years of marriage, to seek divorce. “Thus far I have paid this man over $41,000, the money I need to pay my mortgage, plan for retirement and fund my goal to go back to graduate school to provide a better life for myself and my family.”

“The most discouraging part is there is no end in sight, and I have no path that allows me to free this abusive ex-husband,” del Rey said.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


  • Eric Blackburn

    October 24, 2019 at 2:34 pm

    An argument that mathematics is unreasonable is simply unfounded. It believe the strategy is to leave the divorce courts open to interpretation so that the party in the best position does not necessarily win. The party with the best attorney does. That is not the proper use of our court system. A straight forward formula in the court system for alimony would SAVE marriages. It comes down to incentive. If one party simply decides not to work, there is no incentive to do so. In fact, because of large alimony awards, there is an incentive NOT to contribute. This leaves one party working hard to further themselves in order to live a “good” life, while the other party holds them hostage. If each party (remember, they are adults) believed that they would not be rewarded for bad behavior, they would act accordingly, and perhaps we would have a declining divorce rate… Food for thought. A mathematic fair formula would provide incentive for the less motivated party to do what it takes to remain married.

  • john yencho

    October 24, 2019 at 5:24 pm

    I am 69 years old and I have been paying permanent alimony of $850.00 a month to my ex wife for 16 years. That is $10,000 a year. My photography business is down to about $35,000 a year and I plan to retire and start collecting Social Security next year amounting to about $23,000 a year. Do the math. She collects social security and alimony never worked a day since the divorce. I can not continue to do this.

  • Matthew Lusk

    October 24, 2019 at 5:58 pm

    Barbara Devane is a misandrist with a strap-on.

  • Dick Gould

    October 24, 2019 at 6:38 pm

    I’ve been paying $3500/month since 1988, in anybody’s math, that’s 1.3 million dollars !! Enough is enough. I’m retired on Social Security and a small Air Force retirement. Thank you Rick Scott for continuing my misery

    • Matthew Lusk

      October 24, 2019 at 6:48 pm

      There is one candidate in the 5th congressional district who wants to end alimony nationwide. His name is Matthew Lusk.

      • Dick Gould

        October 24, 2019 at 7:13 pm

        End alimony all together, will be an impossible sell !!

        • Matthew Lusk

          October 24, 2019 at 7:24 pm

          Aww, don’t be a defeatist. First and foremost, alimony is patently unfair, the labor force has been liberated for decades, women have a better chance of landing most all jobs based on even level experience. Secondly 95% of men are against alimony and with university graduation rates, soon 95% of women will be against alimony.

          • Momofmany

            October 25, 2019 at 10:21 pm

            @Matthew Lusk
            “Aww, don’t be a defeatist. First and foremost, alimony is patently unfair, the labor force has been liberated for decades, women have a better chance of landing most all jobs based on even level experience. Secondly 95% of men are against alimony and with university graduation rates, soon 95% of women will be against alimony.”

            Credible sources supporting your statement, please. Are we even on the same planet?

            Please, it’s still far from equal.
            In 2014, reported that the healthcare industry workforce was made up of 75% female workers and 25% male workers. However, only 22% of CEO positions in hospital health systems were women.

            As far as graduation from university is concerned, women graduate with higher debt levels than men, especially black women who have families to support. The males could go to college if they wanted to.

            Unlike some women who years ago faced insurmountable obstacles to go. I wasn’t allowed to go back to school. My ex needed me to take care of home and family while he returned to college for his degree. When it came to my turn, I was told to “figure it out on my own” to find a caregiver for our kids. He refused to take care of them while I took evening classes.

      • Dick Gould

        October 24, 2019 at 7:49 pm

        Good luck Matthew !!

      • Renee Fye

        October 24, 2019 at 11:50 pm

        Are you shitting me?? You just said Barbara DeVane wears a strap-on then literally announce your Congressional candodacy?? Screenshot have been obtained so see you on Facebook while I make you infamous!!

  • William j devine

    October 24, 2019 at 6:51 pm

    My ex has a degree in business from Florida state, a real estate liscence and an elementary teaching cert. She simply did not want to work and she and her unemployed girlfriends new the game. She is getting a nice sum every month twenty two years later. This simply has to stop

    • Matthew Lusk

      October 24, 2019 at 7:30 pm

      There is one candidate funning in Florida’s 5th Congressional District who wants to end alimony nation wide. His name is Matthew Lusk.

  • MomofMany

    October 25, 2019 at 10:02 pm

    @Andrea Reid

    What did you mean by this?

    “What I take exception to is this concept that there are no guidelines. We have very specific guidelines. What they are not is a mathematical equation,” Reid said. “We trust the judiciary.”

    Umm, not in my case. Maybe the 5th Circuit has a different set of rules to play by.

Comments are closed.


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