Opponents of Permanent Alimony in Florida Increasing in Numbers

Most married people hope that their marriage will last forever.

Divorcees in some states, however, have learned that even if a marriage does not last forever, alimony sometimes does.

Under permanent alimony, one party to a divorce makes payments to the other until either party dies or until the payee remarries. Many payees therefore elect not to remarry even when in long-term relationships.

In some cases, there are good reasons for alimony to be permanent, as even opponents of the system agree. For example, spouses with disabilities that prevent them from working are often awarded permanent alimony. But in some cases, it may seem very unfair for one person to pay for a failed marriage for life while the other receives a subsidized lifestyle.

Because permanent alimony continues through retirement, some seniors are forced to relinquish a portion of their Social Security income to a former spouse who may also be receiving Social Security plus alimony.

Many states have done away with permanent alimony, or at least reformed it, but Florida is among a group of states where it is still awarded regularly. Others include New Jersey, Vermont, North Carolina, Oregon, Connecticut and West Virginia.

The law was created in a time when women rarely went to college or had lucrative careers, instead focusing primarily on child-rearing and homemaking duties. Permanent alimony was viewed by most as necessary back then. Now, the need for it is far less clear, and opponents of the law are increasing in number.

Many opponents are high-income individuals in relationships with divorcees who are payers of permanent alimony. They often find that if they marry their partners, their income could go to their partners’ former spouses.

One proposed reform would have the duration of alimony limited to half that of the marriage. For example, a marriage that ends in divorce after twenty years would result in alimony payments for no longer than 10 years – presumably enough time to get back in the workforce.

Another unintended consequence of current alimony laws is that it may limit the desire of the payer to achieve greater income and wealth. When a payer expands his or her business or earns a promotion, the payee may take his or her ex-spouse back to court and attempt to have their alimony payments raised.

The work incentive of the payee, of course, may be lessened by permanent alimony as well, according to opponents.

A bill to end permanent alimony is expected to reach a vote in the Florida legislature early this year.

Joshua Law is a Tampa divorce lawyer and Brandon family law attorney with the Osenton Law Offices, P.A. To learn more, visit http://www.brandonlawoffice.com/