TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Permanent alimony would end under legislation heading to the House floor, but it’s a provision in the bill dealing with time-sharing of children that seems to be causing the most controversy.
Under the legislation, alimony payments could only last for half the length of a marriage, unless the recipient is medically needy or caring for a disabled child.
Both men and women making endless payments to their exes testified in support.
“I can barely pay this monthly alimony and I don’t see any end in sight,” said permanent alimony payer Sonia Delgado.
Tim Kruger said he can’t marry his girlfriend because her income would be factored into his alimony and increase his payments.
“My pastor says I’m going to hell and my attorney says don’t marry her,” said Kruger, who is also paying permanent alimony.
Opponents, mostly attorneys with the Florida Bar Family Law Section, argued the change would hurt the most vulnerable.
“That’s low-income families that can’t afford attorneys,” said family law attorney Beth Luna.
But it’s another provision in the bill causing the most controversy.
During a divorce proceeding, courts would start with a presumption both parents should be entitled to an equal timeshare of their children.
“That’s sort of a one size fits all approach,” said Rep. Ben Diamond, D-St. Petersburg.
Even some Republican lawmakers expressed hesitations.
“My parents didn’t get along, and so the 50-50 child sharing would not have worked for them,” said Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff, R-DeLand.
Similar legislation has been passed twice but was vetoed both times by then-Gov. Rick Scott.
Even though the legislation wouldn’t help those currently stuck in alimony-limbo, Delgado believes the status quo isn’t working.
“And that makes marriage in Florida seem like a liability more than a happiness,” said Delgado.
The bill now moves to the House floor and has one more committee stop in the Senate.
If passed, the changes would apply to all divorces in which a final order has not been issued prior to July 1, 2021.