Will The 2013 Legislature End Permanent Alimony?

By  //  March 9, 2013

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Alan Frisher

EDITOR’S NOTE: Alan Frisher, quoted below in thisWall Street Journal MARKET WATCH article, has been in business in Brevard County as  a Financial Advisor since 2000. He established Sage Divorce Planning, LLC in 2006 to offer the highest level of professionalism and personal service when dealing with the financial issues of divorce. Frisher earned a B.A. degree with honors in Economics from the City University of New York. He is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst and graduated from the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts. He has extensive experience in the financial services industry, having received specialized training in the financial issues of divorce, and has fulfilled continuing education requirements.

As the father of three children who experienced an adversarial divorce, and who was once ordered to pay permanent alimony, I have the personal experience to know what it is like to be caught up in an inefficient, uncaring and highly manipulative family law system.

As a financial adviser, as well as a certified divorce financial analyst, I have the professional experience to understand the financial necessities and requirements of divorcing clients as well as the mindset of the attorneys who represent and advocate for those clients.

And, as president and spokesman of Family Law Reform Inc., I am able to understand and maneuver through the legislative process for our more-than 3,200 members, their families, and Florida’s future generations.

Reforming current alimony law in Florida has proven to be extremely challenging. At the recommendation of many of our state legislators over the last couple of years I, and other core members of Family Law Reform, have met numerous times with the leadership of the Family Law Section with the hope of coming to a mutual understanding and compromise that would benefit divorced and divorcing spouses in our state.

The goal has always been to help create fair law that will enable those couples who have experienced divorce, or who have yet to experience divorce, to do so in an affordable fashion, without having to experience a continued financial tie or burden to one another.

Unfortunately, the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar, in direct opposition to alimony reform, continues to behave in a way that ultimately benefits their members, but not the citizens of Florida.

After many wasted efforts toward compromise, my conclusion, without malice or prejudice, is that the Family Section of the Florida Bar, as essentially a self-regulating organization, has become self-serving.

The leadership of this special interest 4,000-plus-member organization has recommended law to our state legislators year after year, session after session, all the while insidiously incorporating language that would ultimately guarantee its membership a perpetual income stream through continued litigation. This must stop!

Florida alimony law remains archaic and out of touch with the needs and requirements of our citizens. We are not against alimony under certain circumstances, even for extended amounts of time if necessary.

We are against permanent alimony where former spouses are tied to one another financially for the rest of their lives, even through retirement.

We are not against an appropriate amount of judicial discretion, but arbitrary and unbridled discretion for our judges, as is currently the case, leads to unpredictable and inconsistent rulings.

Without a standard for allocating alimony amounts or duration, divorcing spouses can never plan for their future. Current law is oppressive and harsh enough to create dire financial consequences for any money earner, potentially forcing them into insolvency, bankruptcy, or if they cannot pay, sending them to jail.

Leaders of the Family Law Section claim that permanent alimony is not permanent, meaning that it can be modified or terminated when a substantial change of circumstance occurs.

While that may be what is written into law, our family laws have become so complex that any motion to modify an alimony order when circumstances change, as is so often the case in this economy, typically requires an attorney to be retained at a substantial cost, with little possibility of obtaining a modification, let alone an elimination of alimony. With income for attorneys like this, is it any wonder that the Family Law Section wants to maintain the status quo?

When spouses and former spouses spend years returning to court because of ambiguous law, children and families suffer. The goal of Family Law Reform (a.k.a. Florida Alimony Reform), is simply to create a system whereby alimony serves as a transition to independence and doesn’t result in a lifetime of entitlement.

Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Brevard County, and Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Orange, Oseola, Polk, also believe this premise and have filed HB 231 and SB 718, respectively, to correct these injustices.

Although it stalled in the Senate last session, current alimony reform legislation for 2013recently passed by a convincing 10-2 vote in the House Civil Justice Committee and has bipartisan support in the House and Senate with several co-sponsors already on board.

Our legislators are realizing that current law needs significant updating to bring it into the 21st Century and I applaud their dedication to making that happen. It is also noteworthy to mention that numerous Family Law Section attorneys have recently spoken out in favor of reformation of current alimony law.

In future legislative sessions, the leadership of Family Law Reform, Inc., will work closely with legislators to keep an eye on proposals to law suggested and introduced by the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar. In addition, we will make our own recommendations as to what we feel may be beneficial to families in our great state of Florida.

It’s never been about “who” is right, but instead, “what” is right. Family law needs to protect the integrity of the family, even when divorce occurs. We cannot, and will not, allow for family law to be self-serving for family lawyers at the expense of our families any longer. Alimony reform is clearly long over due for the citizens of our great state.


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One Comment on "Will The 2013 Legislature End Permanent Alimony?"

  1. Donald Shelton April 19, 2013 at 10:57 pm · Reply

    I am 67 and only receiving Social Security. I have to pay permanent alimony to a German green card holder. We were divorced in March 1990 and married in Feb 1964. Under the new law will I still be required continue paying? My SS is $1654 and I pay $600.
    Thank you
    Don Shelton

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