What's Wrong With Florida Alimony Laws?
Florida’s permanent alimony laws are among the most draconian and out-of-date in the country. They have much in common with Massachusetts laws that were just radically overhauled to reflect 21st century social and economic realities, including the economic pressures caused by the ongoing recession, in which significantly more men than women have lost jobs.
While divorces in Florida are technically “no-fault,” they reflect attitudes and realities from America in the 1950s, when the divorcing husband was the sole breadwinner and always considered “the bad guy” in divorce, while the wife was considered “the helpless victim.” These antiquated stereotypes still drive much of what happens in the state’s family courts. Because of these laws and attitudes, it is common for healthy, employed women in their 30s and 40s to receive permanent alimony.
Our citizens deserve laws based on 21st century realities, on women’s business and economic power, and on the fact that people are living – and living well – decades longer than they did in the 1950s. It is not uncommon for people in all circumstances to retrain and reinvent themselves well into their forties, fifties, and even later. Women now make up half the workforce, and across the economy, women's wages have increased from 62% of men's wages in 1979 to 80% in 2008.
Where We Stand on Alimony:
We believe that in some marriages, a reasonable period of alimony is necessary for the transition period from married to single life, while the lower-earning spouse moves to independence. But, as is shown again and again in our publication, “The Shame of Florida: Alimony Horror Stories from the Sunshine State,” routine awards of permanent alimony – all too common in Florida courts – can easily be destructive to the entire family.
Instead of ending a marriage, awards of permanent alimony force divorced couples to remain in a constant state of financial entanglement, and allow either party the right to return to divorce court and renegotiate alimony at any time. The financial costs, including attorneys’ fees, are substantial, and the psychological costs to all family members, including children, stepchildren, grandparents – and the divorced couple – can border on cruelty. Many families with awards of permanent alimony are shattered across generations.
Among the most egregious problems with current law is that alimony payers do not have the right to retire – even if the retirement is forced – and have their payments lowered or ended, without costly returns to court. In many cases, awards are not lowered or are lowered insignificantly, even when the recipient makes more money than the payer – and even when the payer is in his 70s or 80s, and/or living entirely on Social Security.
Chilling Effect on Marriage:
Florida’s alimony laws and the court’s gender biases have a chilling effect on marriage and remarriage. Unless these laws and attitudes move into our social and economic reality, marriage rates – especially for those receiving and paying alimony – will continue to plummet.
Spousal Support Disorder