I have been blogging about how the American peoples are fed up with legislators acting to line their own pockets, promote their own self interests, and / or to curry favor with their cronies with the deep pockets without considering the welfare of their constituents. Then they sit back and wonder why folks are furious.
This time, Republican Florida legislators are determined to limit family law judges’ abilities to use their skill and experience in deciding how to render judicial fairness and financial equity in a divorce proceeding. This is always a tough time for all parties concerned. Making a determination as to what is right and fair to everyone is already a Solomon judicial task without adding this undue burden.
Consideration for the years of marriage and their respective incomes of all involved in a divorce has merit but that is already occurring within the family law courts. The republicans claim that they want to establish set standards by usage of a formula to assure consistency regarding these factors. They argue that there are too many variances in rulings among the various judges and family law court systems which are unpredictable, confusing, and inconsistent. But what they are really doing is pre-determining winners and losers in the divorce court.
The republican proposed law favors the payers of alimony, 97% of whom are men. For example, one of the restrictions is that permanent alimony will be no longer be available in instances were it could be legitimately justified. For instance, if in a 20 year plus marriage, the spouse who supported her husband in his high level executive development moves, at the expense of establishing her own career, then her being awarded permanent alimony in a divorce proceeding is not unreasonable. The logic for this, is that her ability to earn sufficient monies to maintain the same standard of living is diminished because of her sacrifices which were mutually agreed upon during the marriage. It is appropriate for her to receive a subsidy to cover any income gap which should be permanent unless she marries again.
The legislators are stating that alimony should end when the person who filed for the divorce retires. This would be true even if the alimony payer had savings over a million dollars and the spouse would only be earning social security monies plus a little more from a 401k that many employers today administer in lieu of a pension. Why should the spouse arbitrarily have her life style reduced because her husband decides to retire? What about her retirement? During the marriage, it was her sacrifices at a detriment to herself, that allowed her husband to reach his income success. Is it only the husband whose income has benefited by his wife’s sacrifices during the marriage who is allowed to retire? Where is judicial equity?
What will happen in too many of these cases, is that the Florida taxpayer will end up paying the tab when good women and children are forced into poverty or the payees will have to file for bankruptcy to be relieved of accumulated bills that they can no longer pay. So, either the state or the business creditors will pay the price for those who feel burdened by this monthly expense even though they took full advantage of their spouses throughout a twenty plus year marriage which contributed to the payers being able to retire in comfort. But of course, those writing the legislation can’t be bothered to find out via a study, what would be the unintended consequences for these more stringent guidelines.
We don’t even know if the disparity in rulings couldn’t be due to the variances of peoples incomes, special needs and the differences in each situation which requires the devising of various remedies to suit individual cases. Have there been studies regarding this claim of disparity of decisions by judges? Of course not!
But if there is this wide disparity, the prescription being pushed into law does not insure this consistency except for the benefit of one group, those who are complaining about paying for permanent alimony or any other permanent remedies.
One person lobbying heavily for this legislation is Tom Sasser, as head of “the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar.” He is also is the famous divorce attorney who handles high profile cases such as Tiger Wood’s divorce. There is also Family Law Reform, Inc. comprised mostly of disgruntled payers of alimony who are advocating in favor of the proposed bill, SB668.
These folks have been trying to pass this type of legislation for years, but it now looks like they are close to success. I do expect that this legislation will be vetoed because of changes to child custody determinations no longer being based solely on the best interests of the children; and because the law is too one-sided, in favor of alimony payers. (Governor Rick Scott did veto this bill in April 15, 2016.)
Here are the Alimony Bill Highlights which are winding its way through the Florida legislature as per a 2/16/16 Palm Beach Post article by John Kennedy, “Women’s groups fight Florida bill to overhaul alimony law:”
- “Would eliminate permanent alimony, along with other forms known as bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative and durational.
- Awards would be based on the incomes of spouses and would typically continue forward for what amounts to 25 percent to 75 percent of the marriage’s length.
- Alimony and child support could not top 55 percent of a payer’s income.
- Alimony could be modified or ended when incomes change, a recipient enters a “supportive relationship,” or the payer retires.
- Couples married for less than two years would not be eligible for alimony, unless a judge finds reasons for an exception.”
“Wholesale changes to Florida’s alimony laws raced Tuesday through a Senate panel despite emotional testimony from many ex-wives who warned the move will wreck the lives of many women and their families.”
“The legislation (SB 668), which would eliminate permanent alimony, is aimed at giving judges guidelines and a formula for determining the amount and duration of alimony, along with conditions where modifying an award can be made.” (There is a similar law being evaluated, Bill 943.)
“The Family Law Section of the Florida Bar (Tom Sasser) supports the alimony changes, arguing that it will bring consistency to cases where awards have varied widely among judges.”
“But opponents smell a rat.”
“The sponsors of this bill say it will bring certainty to the law and it will,” said Barbara DeVane, lobbyist for the National Organization for Women. “It will certainly throw thousands of women and their children into poverty.”
“The latest legislation advancing in House and Senate committees would create new guidelines for payment of alimony based on a marriage’s length and the incomes of both spouses.”
“This will set a framework for judges,” said Tom Sasser, an attorney and chairman of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar, which supports the alimony changes but not child custody provisions included in the Senate bill.” The guidelines would require the court to begin the custody decision process with the concept that the children should spend an equal amount of time with each parent. (This has been dubbed the “50- 50” rule.)
Note: Because about 97 percent of those who pay alimony are men, this blog has focused on men. This blog was updated on 4/26/16.
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