Alimony changes raise questions


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The average length of marriages that end in divorce is just over 10 years. Alimony can now be awarded after seven years of marriage, but legislation awaiting Gov. Rick Scott's signature would raise the alimony threshold to 11 years.

House sponsor Rich Workman says alimony shouldn't last forever.

"No alimony payments should exceed half the time of the marriage," said Rep. Rich Workman, R-Brevard County. "So the 20 year marriage the judges' guideline is that it should be about 10 years in alimony."

Every time frame for awarding alimony is lengthened in the bill.

The family law section of the Florida Bar is raising some concerns that the legislation takes too much discretion out of the hands of judges.

Sponsors say they have not handcuffed judges. Senate sponsor of the bill, Kelli Stargel, has been married 29 years -- to a judge.

"I was married. I worked hard to put my husband through law school. I've stayed home and raised our kids," said Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland. "But given all of that if we're to go through the awful situation of divorce, I would want a situation that is fair."

The legislation also gives equal custody time to fathers and mothers, reducing the cost of child support for the person paying.

The legislation also allows alimony awarded under the changes to end if one former spouse can prove the other is co-habitating and receiving financial gain. Current law only allows for alimony to end when the receiving party marries again.

Groups are lining up on both sides, seeking either the governor's signature or veto.

"This is anti-family. Anti-marriage," said Barbara Devane of the National Organization for Women.

Scott declined to say which way he was leaning when we asked when asked whether a veto would curry favor with women voters.

"I'm concerned. I want to stay married. I always make sure to do the right thing and stay married," Scott said.