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Alimony law reform is being considered at the State Capitol

Published: Jan. 27, 2022 at 6:03 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAP NEWS/WCJB ) - Efforts to reform Florida’s alimony laws are moving quickly in the state Capitol. The legislation abolishes permanent alimony and sets up a formula based on the length of a marriage, and as Mike Vasilinda tells us, the legislation contains a clause that has sunk reform efforts in the past.

Permanent alimony would end under the legislation. It would be replaced with a formula based on the length of a marriage.

For the first time, the change is being supported by the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar.

Philip Wartenberg is the Family Law Chair-Elect, and told the committee “This is something the section has historically opposed, but we believe the time has come to move away from this concept of permanent alimony.”

The most controversial provision says child custody issues begin with a presumption that parents will share time equally.

“What would happen is you will have a huge hurdle, this presumption before you even get to the 20 factors,” says Wartenberg.

Before the bill was approved by the House Civil Justice Sub Committee sponsor Jenna Persons-Mulicka (R-Ft. Myers) said there was one goal.

“To ensure that this leads to a better system that provides predictability. That provides certainty and fairness.”

Anna Eskamani voted no.

“When you have a fifty-fifty assumption, it can tie a judge’s hands.”

The sponsor twice refused to talk with us about the legislation.

What we would have asked is why the sponsor included the presumption that parents would share children equally. That has killed the bill in the past.

Barbara Devane of Florida NOW told us the threat of child sharing is often used as leverage.

“To get them to agree to something that is not in their financial-economic interests, or the child’s,” says Devane.

The legislation also creates an avenue for the payor of alimony to seek to lower the amount or end it altogether when someone reaches retirement age.

Under current Florida law, a judge evaluates 17 to 20 factors to decide child custody. It would remain, but the fear is it will take a back seat to the 50/50 sharing provision.

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