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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida Senate passes changes to alimony law



The Florida Senate on Friday passed a rewrite of divorce laws, changing formulas for alimony and child custody.

Under the change, a party in a divorce could try to change the terms of the alimony agreement if the other party’s income increases by 10 percent. It also sets a formula for calculating alimony and eliminates lifetime alimony payments.

The bill (SB 668) passed the Senate on a 24-14 vote and now goes to the House, where Speaker Steve Crisafulli said he plans to take up the Senate’s provision, sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, and advocated by Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon.

Supporters say it’s a necessary shift, which would create more consistency in the courts during divorce cases.

“This is a very, very emotional thing. Going through a divorce is heart wrenching for all the parties,” Stargel said. “This was supposed to be empowering to people going through divorce.”

But opponents have decried it as an attack on women, who comprise 97 percent of alimony recipients in Florida. Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, said in a lengthy debate that the changes would be “unfair” to people who put their own careers on hold to care for children but are left by their spouses only to have alimony decreased once they do start working again.

“Think about the man or woman who leaves their profession because they love their spouse and love their children and want to provide the best a mother can do,” Joyner said. “Wrinkles occur, a little love spots here and there … and then you get kicked to the curb.”

Four Republicans, including three women — Sens. Nancy Detert of Venice, Dorothy Hukill of Port Orange and Anitere Flores of Miami — broke with party leaders to vote against the provision.

In 2013, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed similar legislation, writing that he worried “the retroactive adjustment of alimony could result in unfair, unanticipated results.” 

Lee amended the legislation Friday to make the child time-sharing portion of the legislation affect only those cases beginning Oct. 1.

[Last modified: Friday, March 4, 2016 5:18pm]


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