PALM BEACH COUNTY - Many people are feeling that they are divided by divorce yet feeling permanently linked to their former spouses by the Florida legal system. There is a new battle in Tallahassee to do away with permanent alimony.
Marriage can be a challenge; so very challenging, that many marriages end in divorce. For some that can mean a lifetime of pain - and also payments.
Her wedding ring is one of the things that reminds Judy Michau, 67, of her marriage. It reminds her of the good, the bad and the eventual end. "Whatever it took, I needed to get out," she said.
After 15 years, Michau and her husband said 'I do' to divorce. At that time, Michau was the breadwinner. She says that may have been the permanent kiss of death.
"I'm still attached to this person and I'm supporting them - and his new truck," said Michau.
Their bond that was brokered in a chapel was later undone over an attorney's conference table. Michau was ordered to pay her former spouse alimony - $558 per month - for life.
State law allows this. Permanent alimony can be granted to those whom a judge sees fit and where a former spouse has the means to pay.
In Tallahassee, there are workings to change the law. Regardless of how long two people are married, the measure would mean that alimony could be 'termed out' at half the length of the marriage, with some exceptions.
"I think what should happen is not this bill," said Attorney Elisha Roy, who is the Chair-elect of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar. Roy believes that this measure, if approved, would actually clog the court system with new litigation. "If you make a law so strict and there's no grey area, it doesn't fit for every family," she said.
But Michau says she - and too many others - have had to dip deeply into savings and into retirement funds just to keep up with alimony payments. "I never thought that getting married would cost me the ability to continue with the vision that I had for myself," Michau said.
Many people pay thousands of dollars in alimony each month. Lawmakers will be tackling the topic of permanent alimony when the next session begins in March. House Bill 231 is slated to go next to the House Judiciary Committee. Senate Bill 718, a similar measure, was recently filed in the Senate.
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