Alimony Reform Bill Clears FIrst Hurdle Without Bi-Partisan Support - vimeo Video

Alimony Reform Bill Clears First Hurdle Without Bi-Partisan Support

Video Transcript

Andretti:  

Thompson?

Thompson:

Yes.

Andretti: 

Trumble?

Trumble: 

Yes.

Andretti:  

Chair Rommel?

Chair Rommel:

Yes.

Andretti: 

Bill passes, Mr. Chairman.

Chairman: 

Members, by your vote the bill reported favorably.

Tom Lemons:  

Once again, lawmakers in Tallahassee are reviewing options to reform the current alimony and timesharing statute that opponents say is unfair and leaves many struggling to survive, while their ex-spouses live comfortably, sometimes for the rest of their lives. Representative Alex Andretti introduced House Bill 843 last year, which is aimed at modifying certain antiquated elements of the current statute, and even hopes to level the playing field of child custody by requiring a 50/50 presumption in family courts.

Tom Lemons: 

But what are the main elements of the bill? Representative Andretti proposes a two year limit to bridge the gap alimony which helps the recipient in an initial transition, a five year limit on rehabilitative alimony to allow a former spouse to gain the ability to re-enter the workforce again, and limiting durational alimony to 50% of the length of the marriage. And most importantly, it brings an end to permanent alimony. As a no fault state, many wonder how adultery would be considered when determining alimony? Well, it does. But that will change if HB 843 becomes law. The burden of proving the need for alimony would become the obligation of the one seeking alimony, and courts will no longer consider standard of living as a determining factor. Divorcees will have to realize their standard of living will most likely be reduced post-divorce.

Tom Lemons: 

If alimony is awarded, the recipient is responsible, if desired, to acquire a life insurance policy to ensure the continuation of support if the obligor passes away. The obligor, or payer, will also have the right to retire and stop making alimony payments. Lastly, if the obligor discovers that the ex has remarried or is in a supportive relationship, the obligor has the right to modify his or her obligation to the ex-spouse. But, on the other hand, if the obligor remarries, the courts will have no right to attach the income or assets of the new spouse. Now, regarding child custody, if the provision becomes law, the presumption of time-sharing and custody will automatically become 50/50.

Chairman:  

383. Representative Hill.

Hill:    

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, representative Andretti for bringing this bill forward. I have a question concerning the purchase of a life insurance policy. You see that the obligee can purchase a life insurance policy on the obligor, but be reimbursed for it. Explain how that would work please?

Chairman:  

You’re recognized.

Speaker 9: 

Thank you, Chair. So the provision you’re talking about, the life insurance, the obligee, the person receiving the payments from the alimony payor, can seek to protect those payments because alimony by statute ends at the death of the payor of that alimony. So the obligee can elect to purchase life insurance and either pay for it themselves, because by statute the payor has to participate in helping that payee, the obligee, receive that life insurance policy. They have to participate, and the judge can also determine they have the opportunity to determine whether or not the payor of alimony, or the person actually trying to take out the life insurance policy, will be the one ultimately paying for that life insurance policy.

Chairman: 

[inaudible 00:03:58] questions. Representative Diamond.

Diamond:

Thank you Mr. Chairman, thank you for the amendment. I noticed in the original bill there was a provision that created a presumption that equal timesharing is in the best interests of the minor children common to both parties. Does that come out with this amendment or is that still in the bill?

Speaker 9:  

I believe that that section is now section two, and it is line 317. [inaudible 00:04:32] thank you.

Chairman: 

Representative Hill?

Hill:  

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It states here in the strike-all, that there is no retro-activity with this bill. Does this bill prevent someone who is currently paying lifetime alimony from petitioning the court to take a look at their situation based on this bill?

Chairman:  

You’re recognized.

Speaker 9:  

Thank you for the question. So in the current strike-all, I’m going to try and find the line so I can reference it for you. Towards the end of the bill where it refers to retroactivity. Yes. So line 481, in the strike-all amendment, it says that, “Nothing in this section related to the right to retire shall make invalid any support maintenance or alimony award including a permanent alimony award ordered prior to July 21st, 2020.” But prior in the strike-all amendment, it does have a section regarding modifications to alimony awards. And I believe that currently, as I read and understand this amendment, the intent is anyone who has a prior alimony award within the guidelines set out in this strike-all amendment, can still go and apply to a court to have that be considered as a change in circumstances.

Speaker 9: 

And I’ll note for the entire committee that this is not a complete sea change in the state of Florida. The Supreme Court case of [Pimm versus Pimm 00:05:55] outlined that retirement currently, in Florida law, can be considered a change in circumstances and someone can be allowed to retire. The reason why it’s important to ingrain this in statute now is to make sure that we get this right at the circuit court level. So an appeal, a very costly and expensive appeal, doesn’t have to be taken to allow people to retire based on the State’s understanding of retirement, and how that changes your circumstances as a payor of alimony.

Michelle: 

Thank you Mr. Chair, my name is Michelle [Klinger-Smith 00:00:06:28], I am a board certified marital and family law attorney. I practice in Monroe County between Key Largo and Key West. I’m here today on behalf of the family law section of the Florida bar, and I would like to thank the sponsor for making revisions. However, this section still has certain concerns regarding the bill, and we therefore have to oppose the bill. We keep hearing that permanent alimony is for the rest of the payor’s life. However, there is the ability to modify or terminate alimony, even if it is permanent periodic alimony.

Michelle:

As it pertains to a supportive relationship, it states that, “The person who is obligated to pay the alimony can enter into a relationship, whether they reside together or marry, and the obligee, the person receiving alimony, is then not able to look at the payor’s new spouse or significant other to determine a modification or termination. Cannot look at that new spouse or significant other’s assets or income. This enables the payor of alimony to hide assets, hide income, into the new person that they’re in a relationship.

Michelle:  

Another issue with this bill as drafted, is that it eliminates permanent alimony, completely eliminates the definition of permanent alimony, yet in the bill still states that, “Permanent alimony may be awarded if agreed upon.” We know what permanent alimony is now because we have a statute that defines permanent alimony. Striking the language as to what permanent alimony is, will create havoc in the future as to what permanent alimony can be agreed upon.

Michelle:   

We have concerns regarding the life insurance policy. The life insurance policy requires the payee, the person receiving alimony, to carry that life insurance policy. It requires the obligor, the person paying alimony, to reimburse. So not only are you restricting the duration, the amount of time that the person is able to receive alimony, but you’re also cutting down, based on the language of this bill, the amount that person is able to receive. And then you tell that person, “You have to pay for the life insurance and then be reimbursed.” And it’s not, “Shall be reimbursed,” “May be reimbursed.” So that’s another concern that we have.

Michelle:

I also want to address briefly the 50/50 timesharing. We are adamantly opposed to the 50/50% time sharing. The presumption, currently there is no presumption for or against. We want to keep it that way. Every case is unique. If the parties are unable to settle, the judge has to evaluate 26 factors that are associated with the best interests of the child. That having a presumption of 50/50 timesharing will take that ability for the court to analyze each statute specifically.

Michelle:

You have to remember, this applies in cases where parties that are married, intact marriage, there are children living in the home. They get divorced, and parties separate, there needs to be a time-sharing plan. This also applies to paternity actions. A child could be 10 years old. Father out of the child’s life. Mother files for child support, in turn father files a paternity action and asks for time-sharing. There is a presumption that this father, who’s been absent from a child’s life for 10 years is now going to have 50/50 time-sharing.

Chairman: 

The debate on the amendment, all who’s in favor of the amendment say, “Yay.”

Group: 

Yay.

Chairman:  

No, against?

Chairman:   

So that amendment… Passed. We are back on the bill as amended. Members, do we have questions on the bill as amended?

Natalie:

Hello, my name is Natalie Willis. I’m speaking to you because I am a lifetime alimony payer. I divorced 13 years ago over my ex-husband’s refusal to work to take care of the home. I didn’t even know what alimony was until I was forced to pay a large amount, which I wasn’t able to handle. Soon I lost my business, my house, and my car. At my lowest point, I had to borrow money for gas so I can go to work. I’ve never been anti-alimony. I wanted to help my ex-husband. I hoped that we could remain friendly with each other because we once were in love, and we have three children. But for the past 13 years, my ex has remained purposefully unemployed, and he has not remarried. Our relationship is poor because of what I do object to, which is lifetime alimony, or alimony till death.

Natalie: 

I started working at the age of 12 babysitting. At 15 I worked at McDonald’s. Throughout college I’ve waitressed and bartended, and currently, I’m a physician. I put myself through medical school. I believe in the value of hard work, but I will never be able to stop working because if I don’t make my alimony payments I go to jail. And right now there is a motion filed that I should go to jail because I’m not carrying life insurance. Because I am uninsurable because I have a heart problem.

Natalie: 

People argue alimony is about rich people trying to shirk their obligations. But the wealthy don’t pay alimony because they settle on a large sum, and the poor certainly don’t pay alimony. It’s the trusting middle-class worker bees, like myself, who bear the burden. And it’s not just men who are payers. As more women become breadwinners, more and more are paying alimony. Currently more than half of all medical school and law school classes are female. Legislators, you all have, or many of you have daughters. Your daughters could be in my position one day. Please do not allow that to happen. Please consider our bill, and thank you for letting me have my words.

Man:  

This is going to be a good policy, it’s going to be a bipartisan policy. I think the last time this was debated on the floor, you had… You know, it wasn’t divided along party lines, the support for this bill. So I hope that’s the same way this time, and I look forward to working with you all.

Chairman:

Representative Andretti, I’m enclosing the bill DJ. Please call the roll on HB 843.

Andretti:

Representative Antone?

Antone: 

No.

Andretti: 

Diamond?

Diamond: 

No.

Andretti:

DiCeglie?

DiCeglie:  

Yes.

Andretti:

Hill?

Hill: 

Yes.

Andretti:  

Week?

Week:

Yes.

Andretti:  

McClure?

McClure:

Yes.

Andretti:  

Mercardo?

Mercado: 

No.

Andretti:

Omphroy?

Omphroy:

No.

Andretti:

Payne?

Payne:

Yes.

Andretti: 

Rodriguez?

Rodriguez:  

Yes.

Andretti: 

[Sirroy 00:13:31]?

Sirroy: 

Yes.

Andretti:

Stone?

Stone: 

Yes.

Andretti:

Thompson?

Thompson: 

Yes.

Andretti: 

Trumble?

Trumble:

Yes.

Andretti: 

Chair Rommel?

Chair Rommel:

Yes.

Andretti:

Bill passes, Mr. Chair.

Chairman:

Members, by your vote, the bill reported favorably. Congratulations, we are finished on time.

Tom Lemons:  

So we have just come out of our committee meeting with the Civil Justice Committee on the Alimony Reform Bill, which was presented by the house, HBA 43. I’m here with John, who’s going to tell us a little bit about how he perceived the meeting, and it looks like that it has passed at least this juncture. So John, tell me a little bit how you feel about that?

John: 

Well, I’m glad that passed this juncture, I realize we still have about five more steps to go through. It does address some of the big problems that we have. I don’t think the courts or the people of Florida understand how big the problem is if you’re just thinking about the numbers of divorce and how many people are paying alimony. But what we want to try and do is make this a fair system, where you don’t have to work forever. I mean, you can’t break a contract. If I broke a contract, they’re not going to keep paying me forever. That’s exactly what’s going on.

Tom Lemons:  

So one of the biggest issues I guess for you would be the retirement issue? I mean, let’s give people an opportunity to retire from this, right?

John: 

I will be 68 in April. I have spent 20 years in the Marine Corps, working 24 years at this current job. I would like to be able to retire and also enjoy my life, my quality, just like every other citizen. This was a burden put on me by the state. The state has the right and the ability to take it off of me.

Tom Lemons:

So it looks like the vote went your way today, is that right? Can you tell me, were you a little bit concerned at first there?

Man:  

Well, I mean alimony is a heavily emotional topic. This bill is not going to make divorce any less awful for both parties involved. So just making sure that we can pull back the emotional arguments and work on good policies, legislators, something that I’m glad we were able to do today.

Tom Lemons:  

All right. What’s the next step?

Man:  

The next step currently is referred to the Justice Appropriations Committee. So I’ll be working with that staff and that chairman on what they think that this bill should ,look like and hopefully we can get to a good place.

Tom Lemons:   

And you feel like you got some more co-sponsors going to be possibly coming your way to help you out with the bill?

Man:  

So, co-sponsorship is great, it doesn’t help too much in the bill, what I really need to have is this bill agenda and work through the process itself. I’m appreciative for the testimony today, it was very, very supportive or the bill.

Tom Lemons: 

And Senator Stargell, what do you think of her?

Man:

Oh, I think she’s incredible. She’s got great experience on this topic. I’m looking forward to working with her and running for her.

Speaker 27:  

And at 50?

Man:  

Yeah.

Speaker 28:   

You’re just… Your life is over because you’re not receiving the payment, it is frankly offensive to me as a woman that is almost 50.

Man:  

Because 50 is like the new 40 right?

Speaker 28:  

50 is the new 30, let me tell you.

Man:  

You just heard me laughing, I’m sorry.

Speaker 28:  

And I know we speak a lot about, you know, in terms of women, and these things affect men as well. But I’m just saying like in today… 50 is nothing.

Speaker 29:  

And it really shouldn’t be a gender issue, right?

Speaker 28:  

It’s nothing.

Speaker 29:

It shouldn’t be a gender issue.

Speaker 28: 

And it’s not, and you know, and that’s the other part of it. And there are women that are paying, you know? That are paying lifetime alimony. And like I said, there needs to be closure at the end of a divorce.

Speaker 29:  

Sure. Absolutely.

Speaker 28:   

If you have a lifetime award alimony then you just never get that. You never really move through all those stages of grief because you’re stuck in that one spot.

Man:  

That person who you don’t want to really talk about anymore is always in the mailbox.

Man:   

Correct. And I think it kind of went along party lines if you want to know the truth.

Tom Lemons:  

It sure did. It sure did. That’s what my concern was, and I was going to ask several people is, what do you think this is really going to be? A partisan issue? And my question to you is, why?

Man:  

I totally agree with you. It shouldn’t because this is a non-gender specific bill.

Tom Lemons:   

That’s right.

Man:  

You saw today, two women that have been ordered to go ahead and pay permanent alimony. So it cuts both ways. It’s just the existing law is bad now, it needs to be changed. It’s time to be changed. We need to get into the mainstream now. You know? We’re way beyond.

Tom Lemons:   

Yes.

confidential





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