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Possible Florida alimony overhaul, part 1: controversy continues

With a new legislative session on the horizon, supporters of reforming Florida’s alimony laws are meeting and conferring about the substance and strategy of possible proposals.

As we discussed in our August 12 post and several other posts last year, one of the key legislative figures in this debate is Rep. Ritch Workman. Rep. Workman, along with a Senate co-cosponsor, offered the alimony reform bill that Governor Rick Scott vetoed last year.

In this two-part post, we will update you on how the debate on alimony reform is shaping up this year. We will start by taking note of efforts by reform advocates to build more support for their position and the presence of lingering concerns from last year about possible reform.

One of those advocates is a nonprofit group called Family Law Reform. Last summer, the group’s president issued a book-length publication that tried to make the case for alimony reform. Many people, especially many men, believe that the current system penalizes them by making them pay alimony to ex-spouses for excessive periods of time.

Gov. Scott vetoed last year’s reform effort, however, due to concerns that it might cause undue financial hardship among women whose awards of permanent alimony could be ended.

Moreover, many couples had already negotiated property settlements based on the availability of extended alimony payments. Ending those payments would therefore open up the proverbial can of worms, even though judges would have the discretion to restore permanent alimony in particular cases.

This year, the Family Law Reform group is sponsoring showings of a documentary film called “Divorce Corp.” The film is highly critical of the current alimony and child custody system.

But reform proposals are likely to be controversial, must as they were last year.

In part two of this post, we will discuss possible alimony reform proposals for this year.

Source: Miami Herald, “Alimony reform supporters rally around documentary film,” Kathleen McGrory, Jan. 21, 2014