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A bill revamping Florida's alimony laws goes to governor

5:45 PM, Apr 19, 2013   |    comments
Florida Legislature - photo by Florida Today
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A controversial bill praised as pro-family and also derided as anti-woman is heading to Gov. Rick Scott.

The legislation revamps Florida's alimony laws.

Bill sponsor Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, said it's time to update the state's alimony laws.

"A lot of laws in Florida were written a long, long time ago in what was a very different world so we are just simply bringing alimony statutes up to date.'

The bill eliminates permanent alimony, it allows ex-spouses to try to reduce or end payments when they retire, and puts a cap on alimony based on the length of a marriage and a person's income.

The new standards are based on how long a marriage lasted. It would be tougher to collect alimony from a marriage lasting less than 11 years, but likely easier for marriages lasting 20 years or more.

Critics said the measure hurts women who stayed at home to raise families.

Rep. Workman said his bill gives judges a lot of leeway, so nothing should change for those who have been receiving alimony for a long time.

"If you have a 65-year-old person that's been receiving alimony for 30 years, it doesn't matter what my bill says. The judge is not going to take away that alimony. That's just a scare tactic being used by some very greedy lawyers."

Workman said the bill generally is designed to prevent alimony from lasting more than half the time of the marriage, but judges will have the power to consider other variables to decide what's best for individual cases.

"The judge can say, 'Wait a minute. We have a handicapped situation. We have a mental illness situation. Maybe we have a 12-kids situation.' Lots of situations the judge can simply say, '7 /12 years on a 15-year marriage isn't enough. I'm going to grant 15 years alimony and here's why.' As long as they put those findings in writing, we're good to go."

Workman contends Florida's alimony laws are much vaguer than child support rules, which he said are like a mathematical equation based on income and the number of children. He said the legislation will help take the guesswork out of alimony.

 

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