Alimony Reform Bill and Gender
We discussed earlier the alimony bill that was before Governor Scott Walker and the arguments for and against the bill. Walker has made the decision to veto the bill despite the overwhelming support of the bill by the general public. It is the second alimony reform bill that he has vetoed.
As expected, the portion of the bill that he had a problem with wasn’t the alimony portion, which had a changed clause from the previous bill that had a veto. It was a second portion involving equal time sharing rules for divorced parents. He believed that the courts should rule in the best interests of the child rather than have the courts start with a presumption that equal time was necessary. Proponents of the measure say that equal time-sharing is in the best interest of the child.
This is likely not the last time we’ll see an attempt at reform for either of these issues. Many thought that the alimony bill would have passed if it weren’t for the equal time sharing measure. The alimony changes would have eliminated permanent alimony and implemented a simple mathematical formula for how long and how much an ex-spouse might get in alimony payments. While it wouldn’t have applied retroactively, those who paid alimony would have the standing to approach the courts to get their payments renegotiated.
The arguments are strong and heated for both the alimony and the time share issues. There have been a number of angry editorials in the wake of the veto, many of them citing influence by feminists and the family law sector for the veto. There have also been arguments that avoiding alimony reform damages Florida’s business climate.
Since alimony and time sharing both play into child support evaluations, some people do claim that any attempt to make it more fair would be damaging for women. Yet for alimony, in particular, there is clear gender bias against men in case law since they are usually the primary breadwinners. However, men are often not awarded alimony even if the woman is making a lot more money. Worse, even in cases where the woman caused the irreparable damage, for instance by committing adultery, courts still award them alimony more often than you might think.
The reforms in this law would have made it a straight comparison on incomes to determine who pays who with no regard to the gender of the individuals. It would have also helped free many men, and women too, from paying payments far into their retirement years to support people they haven’t seen in decades and help raise children that are long outgrown.
As far as the family law sector goes, we can’t speak for all family lawyers, but we can say that compassionate family lawyers aren’t in it for the money. They want to help people solve their legal problems in accordance with law and in the best interests of their clients. Claiming that family lawyers fought this law because it would make cases easier to process, and thus mean cheaper divorces for lawyers, is unfair.