“Until death do us part“ can take on an entirely different meaning when divorce proceedings lead to permanent alimony payments for one party or another. Currently, a group known as F.A.R. or Florida Alimony Reform is pushing the state legislature to follow in the footsteps of states such as Massachusetts and New Jersey and bring alimony laws into the 21st century. Alan Frischer, the spearhead of the movement, contests that Florida’s alimony laws are archaic and “rooted in a 1950’s America where divorce was rare and women in the work place, even rarer”. Alimony blogs are full of horror stories of both men and women forced to give, on average, fifty percent of their income to their able bodied former spouses. These payments, if permanent which most in Florida are, can be required by law until either the supporting party or supported party die.
Recently, F.A.R. documented the case of a 72 year-old, bed ridden, man living with Alzheimer’s who is forced to pay $2,100.00 a month to his former wife whom he has been divorced from for twenty years. Another case of Florida alimony gone-too-far can be seen right here in Tampa bay where a man being treated for stage four colon cancer is being compelled to give seventy percent of his income to a former spouse who is currently living with her boyfriend and working full time. Though both of these men have appealed to the court to lower or end payments, neither have been shown mercy. Aside from the financial drain that alimony entails, it can prevent both parties from moving on with their lives, personally and professionally. Several supporters of F.A.R. who are in the midst of permanent alimony payments are unable to remarry for fear that their new spouses earnings will be factored into what they must pay, raising monthly payments significantly.
On the other side of the issue are those who are being supported by alimony payments and resist remarrying or going to work full time in order to continue to receive monthly alimony checks. Flaws in the alimony system can be attributed to several factors including the discretion with which each judge can determine the type and amount of payments. Although this determination is supposed to be based on several factors including duration of marriage and standard of living established during marriage, it’s nearly impossible to predict how much a judge will demand be paid. Furthermore, the institution of permanent alimony is currently the most debated aspect of the entire system. Frischer and his group argue that permanent alimony should de done away with and instead bridge-the-gap alimony should become the new normal in Florida.
Bridge-the-gap alimony is awarded to assist the less stable party and gives that individual two years worth of support, allowing them to get the education and work experience they need to eventually be fully financially independent. While this type of alimony is becoming more common, members of Florida Alimony Reform are hoping that it will replace permanent alimony entirely. With so many citizens backing a full overhaul to alimony, it will be interesting to see what changes, if any, are implemented to make the entire alimony system more just and beneficial to all parties involved.