Movement against Permanent Alimony Causes Controversy
A woman who says she is prevented from marrying her fiancé because her income would go to support his ex-wife, is speaking out against permanent alimony in Florida – but the state legislature and family law attorneys are not on board.
Under Florida law, a family law court may order one spouse – usually the husband – to pay alimony for the rest of his life, or until his ex-spouse dies or remarries. In addition, if the ex-wife makes a justified request for more alimony, and the ex-husband’s expenses have been lowered with help from the income of a new spouse, a judge may order that the alimony be increased. Some want to change that.
Debbie Leff Israel, a Broward College mathematics professor and one of the founders of the Florida Second Wives Club, says that she wants to get married, but she does not want her income to go to support her husband’s ex-wife. Israel’s fiancé has been ordered to pay permanent alimony, even into retirement.
Israel joined Florida Alimony Reform, a group made up mostly of men paying lifetime alimony. She says she wants to raise awareness of how permanent alimony negatively affects both men and women. The organization lobbied for a bill to put a stop to permanent alimony during the last state legislative session, and plans for one next year as well.
Not everyone agrees with Florida Alimony Reform’s goal of eliminating permanent alimony. In an article published on floridavoices.com, David L. Manz, Chair of the Family Law section of the Florida Bar, called the organization a “special interest group,” and applauded the legislature for “fac[ing] down a threat.” Manz said that the Family Law section, representing 4,000 Florida family law attorneys, opposed the group’s efforts as too broad. He said that the Family Law section had worked with the legislature to enact sensible, balanced reforms.
Some of those changes took effect last summer. Now, when a court awards permanent alimony, the judge must make a finding that no other type of alimony would be “fair and reasonable under the circumstances of the parties.” In addition, for permanent alimony to be awarded after a marriage of “moderate” length – defined as longer than seven years but shorter than 17 years – there must be “clear and convincing evidence” that it is appropriate. Finally, permanent alimony cannot result in the payor having “significantly less net income than the net income of the recipient,” unless there are exceptional circumstances.