House okay's end to permanant Alimony

Mar 6, 2012

The Florida House has passed a measure that does away with permanent alimony in divorce cases. Regan McCarthy reports supporters say it’s a move to make those judgments more equitable, but some lawmakers say it could do the opposite.

After being put on hold for days Representative Elizabeth Porter says she’s glad her measure is finally being heard.

“This is the oft TP'd, and seldom heard, CS for CS for HB565.”

Porter, a Republican from Lake City says her measure helps to ensure divorces are as fair and equitable as they can be.

“This bill will make a much more equitable circumstance in the event of the dissolution of marriage and it makes it fair in the long run, so that when families do separate there is a equitable distribution between the two and an equitable distribution of real property.”

Basically the bill sets out a formula for the court to use when determining the value of items to be divided in a divorce. It also lays out a process for altering the amount of alimony a person who was dependent on their former spouse would receive if the financial situation of one of the parties changes, or if  one of the spouses enters into a “supportive relationship” with another person. Representative Rick Kriseman, a Democrat from St. Petersburg has some questions about what the term “supportive relationship” means, asking whether it is confined to marriage or extends to someone who is living with someone else. Representative Eric Eisnaugle, a Republican from Orlando, has the explanation.

“That is correct; a supportive relationship under current law is treated just like a marriage would be, so if just as if a marriage ends, you can’t go back and get alimony from a former spouse, same would be with a supportive relationship.”

Which, leaves Kriseman wondering what impact that could have in other areas of the state law…

If we’re treating a supportive relationship as a marriage for purposes of this bill, does that also allow someone that’s in a supportive relationship the same rights as far as visitation in a hospital and things like that as you would have a marriage?

But Eisnaugle says the concept of a supportive relationship already exists in the state’s alimony and divorce law, and he says other areas of the law would not be affected.

“Under the current law, when it comes to family law and alimony and modifications based on a supportive relationship, that’s already in the law. We’re not changing that. And under current law it says if someone is supportive relationship there can be a modification or termination of alimony based on that supportive relationship.”

Meanwhile, Representative Lori Berman, a Democrat from Delray Beach, says she has concerns about a provision in the measure that would let couples get divorced even if they haven’t worked out all of their financial issues.

“It allows one party after a year to be able to say, regardless  of whether they’ve reached a financial agreement to say, ‘I want a divorce and I want a divorce now and we’ll figure out the financial agreements later.’”

Berman says that puts the person who is not the bread winner at a significant disadvantage. She calls it the “one year and done” provision.

“know divorce is a very horrible, emotional procedure, but what we need to do is fund the courts and get it done in a quicker time period. Not by saying, ‘one year and the party can be done.’ ”

Lawmakers also added an amendment that replaces the term “permanent alimony” with the phrase “long term alimony.” The measure passed out of the House 82-35. It now heads to the Senate.