5 Key Takeaways from the Florida Alimony Law Debate

by Howard Iken on July 16, 2013

1. Alimony will be changing – Whether it is this year, next year, or several years after, it is a given that an overhaul will be enacted for alimony in Florida. In the prior decade the alimony statutes received the equivalent of several fresh coats of paint. There was minor tinkering here and there but no major concepts were created or changed. The Family Law Section of The Florida Bar appeared to be mostly happy with alimony law and that attitude was reflected in their legislative priority to keeps things the same.  But in 2012 a grass roots alimony reform effort surfaced that included a key combination of Florida legislators and everyday citizens. What united those people was a variety of personal experiences with alimony judgments based on the prevailing law in the State of Florida.  The 2012 effort did not get far. But in 2013 the reformers pushed the issue all the way to the governor’s desk.  They failed but did not appear willing to go away.  2014 will be a pivotal year for alimony reform. And in any case, it is almost a guarantee that alimony will be changing in the very near future.

2. Man-power will surge in the family law courts – Men have been at a disadvantage in many common family law issues.  Among those issues: custody, child support, and alimony.  The ancient thinking was that men were powerful Neanderthals that owned women, fought off dinosaurs, and occasionally got eaten while defending their family.   More recently, men were considered the breadwinners and had the responsibility to bring home money.  Women were the designated child caregivers, were incapable of earning money, and had to be supported and protected.  The family law courts and legislators responded by favoring women with custody, support, and alimony. Men were seen as a continuing mechanism to ensure the survival of the family. But in the process the rights of men to enjoy a full, happy life was compromised.  Alimony reform debates appear to have changed that premise. There is a recognition that women have money and career power, and that times have completely changed. Because of the fight over alimony reform it is almost assured the balance of power between genders will even out in the near future.

3. Many judges have adjusted their views – Since the alimony reform bill was at the brink of becoming a law, judicial opinions have begun to shift in the same direction as the proposed law. Judges are elected officials but are forbidden from taking part in the traditional political process. But the fact is that public opinion will always be part of judicial elections. The debate over alimony and the shift in public opinion will no-doubt have an effect on the hearts and minds of Florida judges.  Whichever way the alimony debate goes – there is bound to be a moderating effect on judges and their decisions in alimony cases.

4. Legal Strategies are changing and evolving – Proposed laws come and go.  Some pass, some fade away forever. But one thing in common to all proposed laws is that you normally do not see attorneys attending seminars to discuss failed attempts at passing new laws. That has changed with the current alimony debate. The Florida Alimony debate and the 2013-vetoed legislation have spurred dozens of organized discussions, including formal seminars on alimony reform. Attorneys in Florida have been paying significant money and spending lots of time attending educational programs on a failed piece of legislation. That is very unusual.  The fact that attorneys have gathered and discussed implications of alimony reform indicates a general consensus that times will be changing.   Most attorneys are giving several sets of contingent advice to clients.  The advice is time-dependent based on when an alimony case will be filed, and when it may be wrapped up. Because at this point any case going to trial in late 2014 will be subject to any new law.  So clients and attorneys are actively discussing Florida alimony law as it stands today, and as it may stand tomorrow.

5. Florida alimony law will not be simplified – We saved the surprise takeaway for last. Supporters of alimony reform claim the proposed framework will simplify alimony decisions and bring more common sense to court decisions. Opponents of alimony reform claim the proposed framework is too simplistic and takes discretion out of the hands of every judge.  But the reality is that any new law and every extensive rewrite of existing laws create years of court litigation.  It is relatively easy to debate a proposed law, develop a framework, fight through the political process, and pass with new law. But then comes the real work – the multi-year fight to determine exactly what the new law really means. Ask two lawyers the meaning of a sentence and you will get two different answers.  Ask 100 lawyers and you will get 100 different answers.  So like any legal debate, there will be extensive fighting and arguing over the contents of any proposed legislation. And after the legislation is complete there will be extensive fighting and arguing over the meaning of the new legislation.

In the end, the Florida Alimony Law Debate will bring change in the State of Florida. It will bring change that will affect the lives of many Floridians. However, as with everything else legal the end will really be a beginning, and the debate will continue on.

Howard Iken
Howard Iken is an experienced divorce lawyer who also specializes in bankruptcy and criminal law. Howard is currently the Managing Attorney at Ayo and Iken PLC, who helps those in need of Tampa divorce attorneys.
Howard Iken

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  • Mark

    As the great Robert Zimmerman (Bob Dylan) once warbled, “Oh, the times, they are a changin.”

    And not a moment too soon. This is my first posting for the 2014 legislative season.

    Let the battles begin!!!!

  • Bob Beaton

    Alimony merely keeps the parties in a constant battle where the only winners are the lawyers, judges and others employed to keep the war going.

  • AlimonyPayer

    No one fights about Child Support….because there are guidelines and a fixed formula. Judges can still go outside the “rules” in unusual cases.

    If a similar process was in place for Alimony, the wars would end also. Or at least be greatly curtailed.

    As women continue to secure advanced college degrees at an ever-increasing rate, there will continue to be more and more women paying “permanent manimony” to a former spouse who may have abused or cheated on her during the marriage. There are people of both gender who feel that they have an entitlement for someone to provide for them for the rest of their lives.

    It’s not the 1950’s, folks. Unemployment benefits eventually end. So does welfare and child support. Why not alimony? How long is long enough?

    2014 is the year that we will make history in Florida by fixing these broken laws!

  • LeeKallett

    This is my alimony horror story. In the no fault divorce state of Florida, the ex had many adulterous affairs with other women (while pregnant with the second and last child) and including her incestuous relationship with her own 20 year old cousin later. She gets rewarded for this and her changed sexual orientation with lifetime alimony by the Hillsborough County Court (Tampa Case No: 05-DR-013627) and I get punished financially. How is this right and just? It certainly isn’t and the time to fix such an injustice is now. The duplicity continues and she blogs and writes as well as conducts her day to day life under an assumed last name, only using her legal last name on the driver’s license and to cash the hefty checks I write. If you are outraged about this avaricious hypocrite, please get involved to fight the unjust alimony laws around the country. Elvina and Lee Kallett of St. Pete Beach, FL – Pays lifetime alimony to woman unable to remarry http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l523XAgv_vc

    Lee Kallett of St. Pete Beach, FL – Pays $4K in permanent alimony to lesbian ex-wife
    http://www.youtube.com
    This is Lee Kallett and Elvina Kallett. He pays permanent alimony to a woman who left the marriage because she chose to live a lesbian

  • Nannette Cobb

    It’s time for Lifetime Alimony to have an end date for all. Half the Length or maybe even full length Alimony for long term marriages, should be the outer limits of Alimony Awards not common place. Retirement, illness must be given full consideration to end all Alimony payments. Time for the entitlement attitude to change, get on with their lives instead of living of someone that in most cases they were married to decades ago. Anger, Greed and Laziness is promoted by Lifetime Alimony. It destroys families and causes children to choose a side.

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