TALLAHASSEE, Fla., March 15, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- In an unprecedented and unexpected surprise, the Florida Bar Family Law Section took a huge blow during legislative hearings this week when its representative, Thomas Duggar, was chastised by Sen. Tom Lee, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"What you are arguing, in my opinion, is nothing more than to continue to drag these things through a process that has continued to fail families," Lee told Duggar, who spoke out in opposition to SB 718 during a legislative committee meeting.
Legislators understand that while permanent alimony may be modifiable by law under certain circumstances, it is an emotional and costly process often resulting with no change in alimony status. And, for cohabitation with permanent alimony, the time and money it takes to prove a supportive relationship could be tens of thousands of dollars in attorneys' fees, again often with no change in alimony.
Because of this, on March 12th, SB 718 passed the Senate Judiciary sub committee by a convincing vote of 8-1. On March 14, companion bill, HB 231, passed in the House Judiciary Committee 14-4.
Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs, who told fellow committee members that his parents were divorced when he was eight, said HB 231 wasn't a good bill, but a "great one" that was not just for divorcing spouses, but for children of divorcing spouses because it doesn't permanently link former spouses to each other, but instead enables them to productively move on with their lives.
House bill sponsor Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, called existing alimony law "archaic" and said that Family Law Reform's goal is to educate the legislators to provide better guidelines for the courts to follow.
Both bills eliminate permanent alimony, replacing it with bridge-the-gap alimony, durational alimony and rehabilitative alimony. The legislation also requires the court to make written findings justifying any extension of alimony outside of the prescribed guidelines. The former spouse seeking alimony also must prove they have a need and the obligor must have the ability to pay, under the proposed legislation.
"What I am most excited about is that this bill includes judicial discretion and puts common sense back into this process," said bill sponsor Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland.
Family Law Reform President and Spokesman Alan Frisher said existing law provides little or no guidance to judges and ultimately results in tremendous financial burdens due to litigation warfare.
"This bill goes a long way toward fixing that. Our bill has three themes, fairness, predictability and preserving an acceptable amount of judicial discretion," Frisher said.
Unlike last year, when the bill died in the Senate, FAR members are much more hopeful of passage.
"Alimony reform is long overdue for Florida, and I applaud the members of the committees for their favorable votes," Frisher said.
The Florida Alimony Reform logo is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=11350
Source: Florida Alimony Reform