Alimony Battle Continues in Florida

By: Bryan Anderson Email
By: Bryan Anderson Email

Panama City- A Gulf County resident, who asked not to be identified, won't ever live a normal life again. We'll call him John and he suffered debilitating injuries during a 2001 car accident and now depends on the federal government to cover his ever-mounting medical bills.

"The other day I was in so much pain I had to go to the emergency room," said John,

Despite John's condition, Florida law still requires him to pay $2,000 per month in alimony to his soon-to-be ex-wife.

It's cases like John's the Florida Alimony Reform group want to change. They had hoped to do it through a reform bill this past legislative session. It passed the House, but failed to reach the Senate floor.

Two issues at the center of the debate are the amount of discretion judges throughout the state have in each case, and the fact that Florida is one of only a few states in the entire country that allows permanent alimony.

Supporters claim the current laws are progressive.

"We've changed it substanitally in two years, and were continuing to do so. Were open to fair reform," said Florida Bar Family Section Chairman David Manz.

Opponents call them outdated.

"If you call that progressive then we have a different definition of the word. I think the people who claim it to be progressive are the same people that are making money off this broken system," said Florida Alimony Reform Spokesman Alan Frisher.

Opinions aside, the reform bill failed and any possible changes to Florida's alimony statutes won't happen for at least another year.

"The government isn't going to do anything that's going to make them pay more money in social welfare programs, so they have an interest honestly, the state does, in maintaining a form of alimony," said Panama City Family Attorney Gerard Virga.

In the meantime, people like John are left deciding between necessary medical treatment and prison.

"I just give up. They're going to have to put me in jail. I can't pay it," said John.

The Florida Alimony Reform Group is already working on another reform bill for next legislative session, hoping for a better outcome in 2013. The Family Section of the Florida Bar said it's ready for the fight.


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