When WLRN's Public Insight Network asked for comments about the alimony laws in Florida, it tapped into a very deep vein of anger and resentment.
Commenters told us about ex-husbands who could no longer plan to retire because of their lifetime alimony obligations. We heard from second wives who worried that the courts could come after their own income if it increased their husbands' ability to pay.
"I will pay alimony much longer than I was married while my ex-spouse owns a business, has a live-in boyfriend and owns two houses," one man wrote. Another said he had been paying alimony for 21 years after a nine-year marriage. From a third: "I can not re-marry because my ex would demand more alimony. My ex is not working and (is) actually receiving more money monthly than me."
A pending bill for the 2013 legislative session could eliminate permanent alimony and limit temporary support according to the length of the marriage. And some current alimony arrangements could be eligible for modification.
These are some of the comments we received:
- Alimony has destroyed my children's future. After almost half a million dollars in attorneys' fees, I have no money left to put my children through college, retire or invest to build a future. I live paycheck to paycheck. I've been threatened with jail for not providing enough money. My alimony and child support is almost $17,000.... per month!! Forever!!! Robert Simon
- As the fiancée of an alimony payer, I have witnessed how an ex-spouse has taken advantage of the system for 13-years by making a conscious decision to only work enough hours each week to obtain the benefits she needs from the state. While she sits back and not only takes advantage of the state of Florida, but her ex-spouse, he (the alimony payer) will be working until his death as that is when the alimony ends. What a shame that until death do us part only holds true in Alimony! Kathleen Jette
- We need alimony reform! My fiancé of nine years and I can't get married because he pays permanent alimony. His ex could go after my income. She was 41 when they divorced and he has to pay her until he goes to his grave. Peggy Goldstein
- Permanent Alimony has made me into a criminal. The judge...has put an oppressive decree on my head that in a good economy would cause great hardship to pay. I can't pay it and still maintain a roof over my head and eat, so the courts threaten to arrest me. All the judges and lawyers care about is how much money they can soak out of the unfortunate people who have the misfortune of coming before them. When two people get to the point that they divorce, they should never be yoked together till the end of their lives. Mark Holtz
- I am court ordered to pay alimony to my ex-wife for the rest of my life. After more than 20 years of paying half my salary, I would like the opportunity to retire. Florida's antiquated alimony laws prevent this. James Laufer
- My husband is 60 and had a heart attack last spring but he continues to work hard because he has to pay his alimony. I have always worked and I am going to be 59. My husband's ex-wife is eight years younger than me and hasn't worked a day since she got divorced. But why should she work? She got $90,000 a year in permanent alimony for a 13-year marriage. Scary thing is that if we go back to court right now, she might get even more money because now a second spouse's income can be used to show more ability to pay. My husband has now paid her alimony for 14 years. Susan Wieland
- The lifetime alimony law is simply a money grab by lawyers to ensure affected parties continue hiring lawyers. Change the law to match child support in that there is a limit. Lifetime is insane. I will pay alimony much longer than I was married while my ex-spouse owns a business, has a live-in boyfriend and owns two houses. Tom Brandlein
- I was married for nine years and then divorced, getting forced to pay permanent alimony. I have been paying this alimony for 21 years. I am now retired and have to go into my savings each month to continue to pay. I can not re-marry because my ex would demand more alimony. My ex is not working and actually receiving more money monthly than me. Attempts at modifications have been extremely costly and provided no relief. Kevin Loucks
- I am required to pay permanent alimony to my ex-wife. She does not intend to ever work or marry anyone else so I have a life sentence of providing her money while she has not provided anything to me since the divorce. This is interfering with my life, my ability to help my adult children and my retirement plans. L David Monroe
- (What would a legislator think if his) wife filed for divorce, filed a restraining order so you couldn't come home or see your kids, empty all bank accounts and credit lines, and credit cards, have your investment accounts locked down, have to pay enough child support for an adult to live on, lose seven-eighths of your total assets to keep your business, take all combined debt as part of the divorce, pay her attorney fees, pay for a life insurance policy for the rest of your life with her as beneficiary, and have to pay 40 percent of your income till the day you die so her and her live in boyfriend can collect on her nest egg INSURANCE POLICY you must leave them because when you're dead and gone, you're not making any money so they get a big life insurance payout to keep the wonderful life style you guys decided women should get for bad behavior! Tom Yeaman
- I pay $4000/month to ex-wife who left the marriage...I can't retire nor can I support my new family and elderly parents. Through no fault of my own, I am now compelled by current state law to pay my ex and support her gay lifestyle for the rest of my life. Lee Kallett
- I got married at the age of 19 and got divorced at the age of 34 in Florida and was ordered by a judge to pay permanent alimony for life. My ex-wife, a perfectly healthy woman and perfectly capable of working, started receiving permanent lifetime alimony 11 years ago at the age of 33. I must continue to support my ex-wife for the rest of her life before supporting my children. The current laws put good, caring, and responsible people like myself in dire financial situations where they MUST support the ex-spouse before they support their children. Hector Torres