Sunday's letters: Welcome reform of alimony laws

Published March 11 2016
Updated March 11 2016

Alimony, child custody bills pass | March 9

Reform of alimony laws welcome

The Florida House last week followed the lead of the Florida Senate in overwhelmingly approving Senate Bill 668 and sending it to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature.

The bill eliminates the punitive "permanent alimony laws" for newly divorcing couples while providing safeguards for existing alimony recipients. It will provide a formula as to duration and amount of alimony for newly divorcing couples while also allowing judicial discretion to address "out of the norm" cases.

While the majority of the bill simply codifies existing case law into the Florida Statutes, the legislation does have a few new features. First, the income and assets of a new spouse will no longer be fair game for divorce attorneys to go after. This is the reason why I, a permanent alimony payer, can never marry my fiancee of seven years. It would cost me $3,000 a month of her income.

Secondly, the bill establishes the starting line — the premise — for child custody at an approximately equal basis for any cases filed after Oct. 1. Nothing in the bill restricts the judge's current ability to do what is in the best interests of the child. It simply sets the starting point from which a judge has wide latitude to deviate.

Since the bill is not retroactive, I will again next month — and forever — continue to pay a healthy, educated adult alimony until one of us dies. My own story in the Tampa Bay Times back in 2013, titled "The divorce from hell," outlines the abuse that is commonplace in our family court system in Florida. Provisions in the new bill would end lengthy divorces that trap the parties at the hands of predatory litigating divorce attorneys.

Senate Bill 668 is an important first step in fixing these woefully outdated laws for all of us.

Terrance Power, Clearwater

Trump wins two states | March 9

Leader, not hawker, needed

As the headlines read "Iran fires missiles" and "American tourist killed in Israel," we have Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner for the presidential nomination, hawking his steaks and wine at a postelecion victory news conference.

America needs a commander in chief, not a self-promoter in chief.

Deborah Green, Sun City Center

Voters' voices are heard

One can curse and swear at the nomination of Donald Trump by the Republican Party, but at least he is winning the nomination in a true democratic fashion by a majority of individual Republican voters.

That is quite unlike the phony charade of an election being conducted on the Democratic side, where Bernie Sanders wins a large state like Michigan and Hillary Clinton comes out with more delegates, specifically the so-called superdelegates who are party officials, lobbyists and moneyed special interests. This is really quite shameful for a party that superficially tells us about its great love for democracy and voting rights while its own election process is little more than an insider sham.

Ronnie Dubs, St. Petersburg

Clinton, Sanders go on attack | March 7

Idealism isn't enough

Bernie Sanders is a committed idealist, rare on the political scene. However, the flip side of his hyper-progressive agenda is that idealism alone does not get the job done. Sanders' illusion that somehow he will spark a revolution that will change the dynamics of political life is farfetched and quixotic. With a Congress hijacked by tea party conservatives and legislative districts artfully constructed not to reflect the American landscape, Sanders' agenda has no chance of success.

I understand his appeal to young people. They are filled with idealism and a vision of vast changes in public policy. More seasoned liberals/progressives who have lived through Gene McCarthy, George McGovern and the 1968 election of Richard Nixon, despite massive antiwar demonstrations at our colleges, know how difficult it is to change the entrenched establishment. Change occurs incrementally when a majority begins to share common values. The successes of the civil rights movement from 1954 to 1964 are a good example.

Idealism is fine, but it also must be grounded in pragmatism. How Clinton and Sanders voted on the 2008 bailout is a great example. Sanders wanted to help the auto industry but was reluctant to help the Wall Streeters responsible for the crisis. He remained pure and voted no. Clinton realized that a compromise was necessary. Yes, Wall Street probably got off too easily, but the auto industry was saved, new jobs were created and this helped fuel the recovery.

Richard Horowitz, Palm Harbor

Florida's climate challenge | Feb. 24, editorial

The time to act is now

As a student at Eckerd College living right on the water and studying marine science, I couldn't agree more with this editorial. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's announcement that the United States just experienced its warmest winter on record underscores that climate change is happening here as well as around the globe, and scientists say we can expect more frequent and severe extreme weather events as temperatures rise.

A new map from Environment Florida shows how Floridians are already experiencing extreme weather. In fact, 99 percent of Floridians live in counties affected by at least one storm, flood or other weather-related disaster in the last five years.

From massive floods to severe rainstorms like the ones we experienced in St. Petersburg last summer, dangerous weather is already hitting close to home. As a young person concerned about the future, I'm urging our leaders to cut carbon pollution and transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy to avoid even more dangerous climate impacts.

Anicka Chaffey, St. Petersburg

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