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Alimony bill clears 2nd committee in Senate

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The Senate’s alimony overhaul bill cleared its second review panel Wednesday, though it was again rushed through in the remaining minutes of a committee hearing.

The Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice OK’d the bill (SB 668), aimed of getting rid of “forever alimony,” on a 5-2 party-line vote.

As in its first hearing in the Judiciary Committee, the bill was last on the agenda. With time growing short, committee chairman Joe Negron limited speakers to one minute.

There was time enough for its main critic on the dais, Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner of Tampa, to speak against the measure.

“I just think we have not taken a holistic look at the dramatic effect this will have on women and children,” she said.

It’s the third time in recent years the Legislature has attempted to change the way Florida judges can award alimony.

For decades, ex-spouses – largely men – have said what they call “forever alimony” isn’t fair, and their former mates – mostly women – counter that they shouldn’t be penalized for having trouble re-entering the work world because they stayed home to raise children.

Republican state Sen. Kelli Stargel of Lakeland, the bill’s sponsor, has told colleagues that it would provide guidelines for judges to modify alimony awards but would not automatically end or reduce alimony for most ex-spouses.

Its equally contentious House companion (HB 455), sponsored by Republican state Rep. Colleen Burton of Lakeland, has been cleared for the floor.

Similarly, it’s aimed at effectively ending permanent alimony, limiting judges’ discretion in awarding alimony by providing guidelines for how much an ex-spouse should get and for how long.

 

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Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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