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Activists Butt Heads Over Alimony Bill

Gerard Van der Leun/ flickr

Time is running out for a bill that would overhaul alimony, prompting activists to hold dueling rallies at the capitol Tuesday.

Generally, men pay alimony, and women are granted primary custody. The ongoing debate over alimony generally falls along the same lines. When feuding protestors filled the governor’s office Tuesday, predictably, tempers ran high. Debate devolved into shouting matches, going head to head as they waited for a meeting with the governor's staff.

The measure would end permanent or lifetime alimony, and establish a new formula for calculating payments. Under the bill, courts would begin custody negotiations, assuming a 50 - 50 split between parents. Supporters of the bill say courts favor mothers, and lawyers profit from the ensuing custody battles. Troy Mansen with the National Parents Organization of Florida believes shared parenting is better for kids.

“When it comes to time sharing there is a large and growing body of research and evidence out there that shows what’s in the best interest of children. And that really is equity, as close to equal time as possible with both parents. And when you take a look at some of the challenges young people face, dropout rates, crime, drugs, even suicide rates, the vast majority of the time, it’s disproportionate to young people that don’t have a quality relationship with both parents,” he said.

Meanwhile, Florida members of the League of Women Voters and the National Organization for Women prefer the system as it is. Heather Quick, a family law attorney in Jacksonville, believes the measure will heavily impact older women, especially those who gave up careers for their children.  

“But men in their 40s and 50s and even 60s are really hitting their stride in their income. Particularly if they have been supported by a wife, and are going to continue to increase their income. They’re gonna make up the difference in the half of the assets that are gone. And where are the women going to be? They are going to be out of luck as it relates to alimony,” Quick said.

Some, including retired circuit judge Bob Doyle, believe the bill will lead to costly litigation.

“I would feel compelled to grant a hearing under this statute. I believe it is retroactive and I have yet to talk to a lawyer who is not in the Legislature who believes it is not retroactive,” Doyle said.

In 2013, Governor Scott vetoed a similar bill because of concerns about retro-activity. Scott has until April 19th to sign or veto the bill. If he does not act, the measure will automatically become law.