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Is Florida's alimony reform bill a solution or a problem?

Arguably, people don't enter a marriage thinking it will end in divorce, but the simple truth is that sometimes relationships just don't work out. When relationships, especially marriages, come to an end it is stressful and usually quite painful as both parties struggle to redefine their lives and divide everything they've worked so hard to build together. A large part of this process obviously involves an economic discussion as both parties work toward financial independence.

So what if you find yourself in the midst of a divorce after spending the past seven or eight years at home raising the kids? What if you've put your career advancement on hold to accommodate your husband's job and now you're left with few options and a limited paycheck? These are perfect examples of situations where alimony could make or break the next several years of your life.

Alimony reform is on the table for discussion... or debate?

An alimony reform bill in Florida seeks to change everything from payments to the duration, and even allow for modifications and early termination under some circumstances. This bit of legislation has quietly evolved into a highly controversial bill as it even includes a section on parenting agreements. Proponents continue to argue that the reform would allow for more quantification and consistency across the various courts, but many professionals and family advocates are deeply concerned.

Long-term marriages had some impact on the award of alimony, but under these reforms even that can change. If a woman sacrificed her career for her husband and family she could often count on rehabilitative, durational or even permanent alimony to help her get back on her feet. In the case of women close to retirement age, it would allow them to draw on a retired ex-spouses Social Security.

Beyond that, some advocates are concerned that the bill allows those who are making payments, often men, to request modifications and even termination of alimony based on the smallest increases in their ex-spouses pay. Examples are given it debates such as these. Those opposed to passing the bill say it is possible that a woman could have a $12 per hour job, earn a 10 percent pay increase and her ex-husband, who made more than six figures, could take her to court for a modification or even early termination of alimony by arguing that her circumstances have significantly improved.

How the alimony reform could affect parental rights

Another large point of contention is the child-care portion of the bill that directs judges to assume both parties are equally fit to care for the children and consequently assign a 50-50 shared-parenting agreement. If one parent does not want his or her half, then opponents of the bill argue that the burden falls to the other parent to provide the care without extra physical or financial assistance. Not only does this leave a parent open to a variety of issues, it is not in the best interest of the children who are left open to become potential pawns in their parents' divorce.

Regardless of the passage or failure of this particularly bill, it is in your best interest to retain an attorney if you find yourself facing a divorce. The legal system is complex and difficult to navigate under the best of circumstances, but even more complicated when you are also dealing with the emotions and fallout of a divorce. A little help can go a long way - an experienced attorney can help get you the best possible outcome and give you a little piece of mind in tumultuous time.

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