Alimony Changes Raise Questions

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By: Mike Vasilinda

Legislation on its way to the Governor’s desk will make it harder for divorcing couples to collect alimony, it shortens the time alimony can be awarded, and presumes divorcing fathers and mothers are equally capable parents.

The average length of marriages that end in divorce is just over ten years. Alimony can now be awarded after seven years of marriage, but legislation awaiting the Governor’s signature would raise the alimony threshold to eleven years. Sponsor Rich Workman says alimony can’t last forever. “No alimony payments should exceed half the time of the marriage. So the twenty year marriage the judges guideline is that it should be about ten years in alimony.”, says Rep. Workman, R-Brevard County.

Every time frame for awarding alimony is lengthened in the bill. The family law section of the Florida Bar is raising some concerns that the legislation takes two much discretion out of the hands of judges.

Sponsors say they have not handcuffed judges. Senate Sponsor Kelli Stargel has been married 29 years to a judge. “I was married. I worked hard to put my husband through law school. I’ve stayed home and raised our kids. But given all of that if we’re to go through the awful situation of divorce, I would want a situation that is fair.”, says Sen. Stargel, R-Lakeland.

Groups are lining up on both sides seeking the Governor’s signature, or veto. “This is anti-family. Anti-marriage.”, says Barbara Devane, National Organization for Women.

But Rick Scott declined to say which way he was leaning when we asked and whether a veto would curry favor with women voters. “I’m concerned. I want to stay married. I always make sure to do the right thing and stay married.”, says Gov. Scott.

The legislation also gives equal custody time to fathers and mothers, reducing the cost of child support for the person paying.

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