Alimony reform debate likely to resurface in 2020 session

Published: Oct. 24, 2019 at 5:50 PM CDT
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A battle over alimony is back in front of lawmakers for the first time in three years.

Reformers are seeking to do away with permanent alimony and create guidelines that would make alimony awards more uniform across the state.

Elisa Del Ray married an abusive husband. She finally got the courage to get a divorce when he threatened her with a gun.

“I would have never imagined that I would be paying permanently, alimony to my abuser,” Del Ray said, speaking to lawmakers in a committee Thursday.

Del Ray’s case is extreme, but it’s part of the reason alimony reformers want to end permanent alimony in the state of Florida.

“The main thing that permanent alimony payers want is to see the light at the end of the tunnel because a lot of them just have this sense of hopelessness,” said Alan Elkins with Florida Family Fairness.

Reformers are asked lawmakers during a panel discussion to limit alimony to half the length of a marriage and put in place a standard formula to calculate alimony payments to ensure consistency.

The idea has the attention of Rep. Bob Rommel.

“I do want to look at whether there's a fair formula for the majority of cases. I know in some divorces there's always extreme circumstances,” said Rommel.

But family law advocates say cost of living and lifestyles differ across the state.

“And when you try to put that in a box and create a formula for that, it makes it very difficult to be fair to everyone,” said Andrea Reid with the Florida Bar Family Law Section.

In 2016, a bill that included guidelines for alimony payments was approved by lawmakers.

It was vetoed by then-Governor Rick Scott, but now there’s a new governor and new optimism for reformers.

No bill has been formally introduced yet, but supporters have retained two of the most powerful lobbying groups in the state capitol.

One change both reformers and family law advocates do agree on is that after a person retires they should be able to stop making alimony payments.