The Case for Alimony Reform

Recently, a Florida Bar Family Law Section attorney, Mark Sessums, tried to make the case for permanent alimony. Mr. Sessums has been very vocal and clear that he represents the FLS’ position against all alimony reform. We asked two Family Law attorneys, Lori Barkus and Alan Elkins, what they thought of Mr. Sessums’ opinions and they responded animatedly and explained why ALIMONY REFORM IS NEEDED. Below are all  3 opinions so you can judge for yourself.

 

Source:  Response to Mark Sessums as provided to FAR by Family Attorney Alan Elkins

Alan Elkins

Alan Elkins, Esq.

Title: The Case for Alimony Reform – Another View

By: Alan Elkins, Esq.

Published Date:  March 2013

Quote(s):

Attorney Mark Sessums recently published an article in the Family Law Commentator, Winter 2013 edition which I would like to respond to. While the article defended the continued use of permanent alimony in family law actions it seemed equally bent on painting the movement known as Florida Alimony Reform “FAR” as a small group of male dominated vindictive extremists.

Although I am not a member of “FAR” it is my opinion as a divorced middle aged man paying permanent alimony, who is also a family law practitioner with over 30 years of experience, that the amendments being sought are reasonable and make a lot of sense. What the amendments seek to do is bring consistency and uniformity to the way trial courts rule in alimony cases by providing guidelines on amount and duration. I believe guidelines are long overdue.

Click here to view Elkins’  full response – PDF Version

 

Source Response To Mark Sessums – Article in Lori Barkus PA Website

lori-barkus

Lori Barkus, Esq.

Title: The Case For Permanent Alimony – A response

By: Lori Barkus, Esq.

Published Date:  March 2013

Quote(s):

Attorney Mark Sessums published an article in the Family Law Commentator in February, 2013, defending the current alimony laws and criticizing those who seek reform. Mr. Sessums’ cites a plethora of case law in support of his arguments. However, I do not believe the article presents the complete picture of those cases or of the outcomes that can and do happen under the current laws.

FAR is not a male dominated effort nor is alimony a “man’s issue”. The fact is that more and more women are the family breadwinners and more of these women have or will become payers of alimony. Mr. Sessums is  attempting to turn reform into a gender issue and, in so doing, seems to miss the current economic reality of most couples.

Click here to view Barkus’ full response – PDF Version

Source: The FL Bar’s The Commentator, Winter 2013 Edition

Title: The Case for Permanent Alimony

By: Mark Sessums, Esq.

Published Date:  March 2013

Quote(s):

FAR is a male dominated effort to eliminate a trial court’s equitable power to award permanent alimony as a remedy in family law actions. 5 If successful, many dependent spouses, of both genders, could be deprived of much needed support after divorce. Eliminating permanent alimony is contrary to the public policy goal of supporting marriage as alimony supports the concept of marriage by supporting the impecunious spouse if the marriage fails.

At the time the concept of alimony originated, women could not separately own property, and could not earn sufficient income for self-support.12 After marriage, a wife’s tangible personal property, and control of her realty, passed to her husband under the doctrine of jure uxoris.13 Any real estate transferred to the wife during the marriage became jointly owned with the husband, and the husband exercised sole control.14 The husband also had legal right to all of the wife’s earnings during the marriage.15 A wife could not contract, sue or be sued  during the marriage.16 A wife was legally a non-person during a marriage, and needed support after the marriage due to her reliance on her former husband.

Click here to view Mark Sessums full article – PDF Version

 

Lori Barkus – Florida Alimony Reform Gains Momentum

Attorney or practice name:

Lori Barkus, Esq.

Source of Quote(s):

Article: Florida Alimony Reform Gains Momentum

Published Date: 02/20/12013

Quote(s):

The current laws allow for broad discretion in how much alimony can be awarded and for how long. Modifying or terminating alimony is based almost solely on the financial ability of the paying former spouse, who cannot voluntarily reduce his or her income, while the receiving spouse, who can be educated, have prior work history and is employable, can choose not to work or to work only in a limited capacity for the rest of their lives. I realize that is not the case in all situations, but it does happen. And the result of situations like this, and the lack of clear standards for what to do in these situations, is often years and years of continued bitterness and litigation. When spouses and former spouses spend years returning to court, children suffer, finances suffer and every family member’s economic future is a little less secure. One of the surest ways to prevent excessive litigation is by adopting standards and guidelines. There is a lot less to fight about when everyone is clear on the rights and expectations. By adopting clear and consistent standards, while allowing flexibility in situations which require it, the results will be more consistent and there will be less litigation and less harm to families.

Theodore Enfield – Advises on Modifications of Florida’s Alimony Law

Attorney or practice name:

Theodore Enfield, Esq.

Source of Quote(s):

Press Release: Theodore Enfield – Advises on Modifications of Florida’s Alimony Law

Published Date: 01/29/2013

Quote(s):

Florida Alimony Reform says that it simply wants parties to be able to move on with their lives following a divorce without the cord of permanent alimony tying them together. Although Florida lawmakers previously enacted laws to address the supportive relationship by allowing for modification, the changes made simply don’t go far enough. Often ex-spouses find themselves financially tied to each other until the end of their days.

Permanent alimony is just how it sounds like. When it comes to divorce in Miami Florida, one spouse pays the alimony to another for the rest of their life. The nonprofit has been pushing for alimony reform since 2010 and plans to fight other family-law problems once the state reforms alimony—something its divorced founder, Alan Frisher, a Melbourne, Fla., certified divorce financial analyst, is confident will happen. The change could take place as early as this year, with a bill to end permanent alimony expected to go to a vote in the Florida legislature within a few months.

Mark Dubose, Esq. – Is Proving Cohabitation Enough?

Attorney or practice name:

Mark Dubose, Esq.

Source of Quote(s):

Termination of Alimony in Florida- Is Proving Cohabitation Enough?

Quote(s):

The short answer is, no. Florida’s courts have recently held that proving that a former spouse is cohabitating and engaged in a supportive relationship is not enough to require the termination of alimony. Instead, proof of the former spouse engaging in a supportive relationship only makes termination of alimony permissible if the former spouse no longer has need for alimony due to the supportive relationship.

This holding represents a large step back in the evolution of Florida’s alimony laws. By this holding the courts have made it clear that Florida’s laws have not yet caught up with the now popular belief that alimony, in its traditional sense where a Former Husband must just support his Former Wife for the rest of her life if they divorce, is a concept whose time has passed. It appears that, unless the Florida Supreme Court reverses this most recent holding, the modernization of Florida’s alimony laws will have to await further action by the legislature.