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Florida alimony bill clears first panel

Alimony serves a great purpose after divorce, but it can also be a very frustrating issue for both individuals. On the one hand, a spouse who was a stay-at-home parent may end up not being able to get back into the workforce after divorce. That individual understandably needs support in order to stay financially afloat. On the other hand, the individual paying the alimony does not want to have to support his or her ex-spouse for the rest of his or her life. This push and pull becomes a very contentious issue.

For the third time now in recent years, the Legislature has tried to change Florida’s alimony law. Recently, a House bill sponsored by Republican state Rep. Colleen Burton, cleared its first panel. The bill wants to “effectively end permanent alimony,” among other things. It wants to limit a judge’s discretion in terms of awarding alimony by using a preset formula that will determine how much an ex-spouse will get and for what duration.

Although paying spouses tend to support this bill, those receiving alimony say the bill could cause people to become homeless. A retired judge, who has presided over some 25,000 divorce cases, said the bill has “fundamental flaws that are going to hurt real people.”

The bill would also allow people to seek retroactive modifications. This was an issue of concern for Gov. Rick Scott in 2013. He vetoed a similar measure that year, saying that it could result in unanticipated and unfair results.

It’ll be interesting to see if this bill truly has legs in the months to come. We will continue to follow this story.

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