Traditional alimony may be finished in Florida

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Photo Credit: Post Divorce Chronicles

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is reviewing a bill that would end permanent alimony in Florida after a two-year effort paid off when the House voted the measure through by more than a 2-1 margin.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, would eliminate permanent alimony when marriages lasted fewer than 20 years. For long-term marriages, the measure would require both spouses in a divorce to agree on alimony, rather than the automatic requirement it is now.

The bill, which has already passed the Senate, was approved Thursday in the House after a debate that had opponents calling it “anti-woman” and supporters describing it as a step toward equality between the sexes.

Almost all of representatives who spoke – Republican and Democrat — were women.

Palm Beach County’s Rep. Lori Berman, D-Boynton Beach, said the bill put women “at risk,” noting the majority of clients of homeless shelters in her district are divorced women in their 50s.

Workman’s bill, she said, is “not something I can condone.”

“A one-size –fits-all standard can lead to inequality,” she said.

But to Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, fixing inequality was exactly the point.

Noting that the permanent alimony bill was “probably the most emailed-about bill this session,” Young called it the most “gender-equalizing bill this session.”

“It’s an equal-opportunity bill, guys,” she told the House during debate.

The time has passed, Young said, when women should be presumed to be unequal to men.

“Our divorce laws have somehow made us look weak,” she said.

Rep. Elizabeth Porter, R-Lake City, agreed.

“Alimony doesn’t always mean the woman receiving alimony,” she said. “This isn’t about women’s rights ….This isn’t about women.

“Our sons need to be treated the same as our daughters.”

Rep. Cynthia Stafford, D-Miami, however, called the bill “unfair,” “harmful” and “one-sided.”

A spouse in a long-term marriage, she said, might give up her own opportunities to be self-sufficient, only to be hurt by it if a marriage fails after decades.

“If the husband says he’s out, she’s out, too, not just out of the marriage, but out of the house and out on the street,” she said.

But Workman said the reform – which he started working on last year – is aimed at making a bad situation better.

“We all know divorce is terrible,” said Workman, a divorced father of two. “Our laws should not, by their nature, make divorce worse.”

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