“Scary and caters to wealthy men” – Florida just ended permanent alimony for ex-spouses
- The state of Florida has ended permanent alimony payments for ex-spouses
- Judges can now consider adultery, the need for support and whether a new partner supports the ex-spouse financially as deciding factors
- Critics say this will cause “financial devastation”, particularly among older women
A new measure that eliminates permanent alimony payments for ex-spouses in Florida has been signed into law by governor Ron DeSantis.
The measure will enable judges to consider additional factors when deciding on alimony payments including whether adultery has taken place, and whether the spouse seeking financial support has an actual need for support, which they will need to prove.
The new law then provides a process for ex-spouses to seek “modifications” to alimony agreements when they want to retire. It will allow judges to decide whether to reduce or terminate alimony, support or maintenance payments after considering aspects such as the age and health of the person who makes payments, the economic impact a reduction in alimony would have on the recipient, and the ability of both parties to obtain the necessary skills or education to enable themselves to either contribute to their own support or become self-supporting.
Modifications can also be sought if “a supportive relationship exists or has existed” involving their ex-spouses in the previous year. Critics argue that this is too vague and could be interpreted to mean a roommate who helped an ex-spouse to cover their cost of living temporarily.
“Financial devastation” for women
The decision has drawn widespread outrage, including from the “First Wives Advocacy Group,” a coalition of women who state the change will disproportionately affect women, and in particular older women. “We believe by signing it, he [DeSantis] has put older women in a situation which will cause financial devastation. The so-called party of ‘family values’ has just contributed to the erosion of the institution of marriage in Florida,” said Jan Killilea, co-founder of the group, speaking to The News Service of Florida.
On the flipside, ex-spouses said they were being forced to work long past the age they wanted to retire because they had to make the payments.
“This new alimony law is scary and frankly caters to wealthy men,” says Tara Pretend Eagle Weber, a social worker based in Florida.
“Modifications = unaddressed issues in family court. I have seen this myself in court where the father does not want to pay child support, has been ordered to but doesn’t. He is not sanctioned or even lectured for that matter, and his lawyer tells the judge his client has not done his business taxes in four years… like it is nothing.”
To calculate spousal support, courts first look at the most recently filed tax return. Weber explains that only one modification will be discussed per court date, so that if the ex-spouse attempts to address anything additional it will be refused. “Even if one modification has to do with another. Then the judge will say that the ex-spouse needs to work on his taxes.”
A system “designed to overwhelm ex-wives and mothers”
“Several modifications would take paying a lawyer for three or four appearances in court rather than getting it all addressed in one hearing,” Weber explains. “It is designed to overwhelm the ex-wife and mother to not have the money to pay for it all, meaning her issues may never be addressed.”
This means that circumstances such as domestic violence and abuse that took place within the marriage may never go on record. “At one point these hearings were either not being recorded or were at cost to the ex-wife to be recorded. It has been getting progressively worse as the years go by here in Florida,” Weber adds.
The measure has been years in the making and has been vetoed on several occasions. However, this year it was backed by campaign group Florida Family Fairness and The Florida Bar’s Family Law Section.
Under the new bill people married for less than three years are not eligible for alimony payments, and those who have been married 20 years or longer will be eligible for payments of up to 75% of the term of the marriage.