The First Wives Club wasn’t happy.
Up to 20 women, men and a couple of children – accompanied by the media — filled the reception area of Gov. Rick Scott’s office at lunchtime Friday to demand Scott veto a bill that would end permanent alimony in Florida.
To the demonstrators, it was just a question of fairness. The drive the point home, they carried signs with messages such as “Alimony Bill Hurts Families, Veto SB 718,” and “Gov. Scott Veto the Alimony Bill.” Another was more graphic: “(Peace Sign) (Heart) and Alimony.”
“You think you’re partners during a marriage. This bill undermines that respect for a partnership,” said Colleen Edwards, a West Palm Beach woman who has been collecting alimony since 2007, after the breakup of her 26-year marriage.
“They’re trying to overturn judges’ decisions,” Edwards said. “Where’s the … legality in that?”
The alimony bill was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, and in the House by Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne. It is currently under review by the governor’s office.
The bill conditions alimony payments on the length of the marriage, eliminating permanent alimony when marriages lasted fewer than 20 years. For long-term marriages, it requires both spouses to agree on alimony, rather than the automatic requirement it is now.
It also allows alimony to be adjusted when the paying spouse reaches retirement age.
In addition to alimony, the bill contains changes to family law by assuming 50-percent custody of children for each ex-spouse. Demonstrators on Friday said that provision could lead to lower child-support payments required by the courts, which could also hurt the financial situation of ex-spouses.
And those most hurt are almost always women, who make up the vast majority of alimony recipients, demonstrators said.
“Somebody said they didn’t think it was a gender issue,” Edwards said. “It is.”
Attending the demonstration as “an observer,” Tallahassee resident Brenda Smith had a different point of view.
Smith, who is retired from the Navy, said she hopes Scott signs the bill so she can file for divorce without losing half of her retirement to her estranged husband after a 32-year marriage foundered. She filed for divorce in 2009, but withdrew the filing for financial reasons.
“To me, it was better to be married and separated than give him half of everything I worked for,” she said. The couple has two grown children
Under the state constitution, Scott has until Monday to sign or veto the bill. If he does neither, it becomes law.
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