‘A form of welfare’: Bill eliminating permanent alimony advances to House floor after heated debate

DIVORCE CUSTODY
'Permanent alimony is a form of welfare. I've said it over and over again.'

Legislation to end lifelong alimony has returned to the Legislature and is now on to the floor after clearing its final House committee Tuesday evening.

This year’s House version (HB 1395), carried by Fort Myers Republican Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, was approved in a 15-6 vote in the House Judiciary Committee, but only after some heated debate.

The legislation would prohibit the award of permanent alimony in future divorces and also would repeal court-ordered permanent alimony. That leaves bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative and durational alimony as options. Former couples could still agree to permanent alimony in a marital settlement.

Currently, long-term alimony can be modified at a judge’s discretion. A 1992 Florida Supreme Court ruling found that retirement counts as a change in circumstances that can modify alimony.

One provision in the bill that drew opposition from lawmakers across the aisle is the presumption that equal time sharing is in the best interest of children.

“My biggest issue with this bill is the 50/50, being a child of divorce,” said DeLand Republican Rep. Elizabeth Anne Fetterhoff. “The parents, they got married, they signed a contract. I get that, but the kids — at no fault of their own — did not sign into this contract and should not be put under the strain of being in a 50/50 situation. I just don’t feel like it’s a necessary part of this bill.”

Rep. Ben Diamond also expressed concern about the 50/50 presumption.

“I’m with where Rep. Fetterhoff is,” he said. “The most sensitive issue in a divorce is thinking about how parents who no longer live together raise their children.”

As for the alimony portion of the legislation, lawmakers were divided on where they stood.

“Permanent alimony is a form of welfare. I’ve said it over and over again. I’m not trying to be ugly. Welfare is financial support given to people in need, period. That’s what welfare is. That’s what alimony is,” said Escambia County Republican Rep. Michelle Salzman.

Salzman’s comment drew criticism from Tampa Democratic Rep. Dianne Hart, who argued cutting permanent alimony would leave individuals caring for children in compromising positions. Opponents say the legislation only seeks to benefit the primary breadwinner, putting the other individual at an unfair disadvantage.

“Call it welfare?” Hart said. “I call it taking care of your family — of that woman that you kept having children with, that stayed home and took care of them, and never had an opportunity to further her education.”

As in years past, the bill drew opposition from several current alimony recipients who feared the changes could alter their modifiable alimony, as well as attorney groups.

“In regard to alimony, the Section does not feel that it is reasonable or necessary to automatically reduce or terminate existing awards of alimony that were a result of a negotiated agreement or determination of the court, as this will do irreparable damage to alimony recipients by changing the rules after the entry of the Final Judgment,” said Heather Apicella, chair of The Family Law Section of The Florida Bar. “We continue to work with the sponsors of the legislation on ways to improve Florida’s current system of alimony.”

Apicella also expressed concern over the 50/50 time sharing presumption.

“It is paramount for the well-being of every child who is the subject of a timesharing dispute, that their case be considered based on their unique set of circumstances,” she said. “The fact is, the ability of a parent to provide for a child can differ greatly and should be considered in the determination of timesharing agreements.”

Some lawmakers have made repeated unsuccessful attempts to pass similar alimony reform measures in recent years. This Session, Sarasota Republican Joe Gruters is sponsoring the Senate bill (SB 1796).

The House voted 74-38 last year to pass the bill, which failed in Senate committees. The legislation would take effect in July, if approved.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected]


7 comments

  • Leslie Floyd

    February 8, 2022 at 7:50 pm

    Michelle Salzman the former pole dancer refers to a woman who gave their life to church and family as a welfare recipient . The woman has not any Republican family Values . Many women stayed home to raise children and to help further their spouses career . Many women still do this . Every state has some for of perm alimony except one or two and those states have judicial discretion that still can award it . They just call it other names like … reimbursement alimony , ect… It has its place of need in a lengthy marriage . Grey divorces happen often in Florida . We are a retirement state . Often there is not equal splitting of property , mediated divorces are contracts between two people and one party might trade the. Marital home exchange for perm alimony. Is the state of Fl going to get that back for her. The State of Fl is opening a legal can of worms . This is unconstitutional and will cost the state millions in law suits if this bill passes. Not to mention all the older women that become poverty stricken and homeless because of this Bill. I feel there are some very Rich men behind this bill such as Michael Buhler and John Formularo , Terry Powers ect… This is corruption at its finest after all Matt Geatz started this bill . Now Sen Gruters is passing the baton . Michelle Salzman is a disgrace to our state. She appears to hate the poor .

  • politics

    February 9, 2022 at 8:39 am

    Make a contract before the I do If you plan on the lack of money arrangement

  • RazzleDazzle

    February 9, 2022 at 8:51 am

    Why don’t we all call alimony what it is? Extortion. I find it amusing that with all the “Go Girl” propaganda permeating our daily lives for decades that this representative falls back to the schtick of “the woman who stayed home and cooked your meals.” So which is it? Are women in the workforce because of pre-planned devaluing of the dollar and societal ploy to dilute the family? Or is it back to the nuclear family? Quite the conundrum.

    Government shouldn’t be involved in the family, period. Child support shouldn’t go through the state. Alimony should be banished. Did you know the State of Florida charges interest on child support arrears? Curious. Criminal is a more apt descriptor.

  • A. Blues Brother

    February 9, 2022 at 9:25 pm

    There is a growing number of high earning women who are pushing back against permanent alimony as many are forced into ( or potentially facing) making eternal payments to their former husbands. And why should a person ending a 10 year marriage pay alimony for 40 years to an able bodied spouse? To “maintain the previous standard of living”? If you read these proposals carefully, a judge can still extend alimony in special circumstances, such as when the loss of alimony will place the recipient below the poverty line or there is a disabled child to care for. This is needed to address the common practice of awarding permanent alimony as a default rather than some of the current alternatives.

Comments are closed.


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