Some call alimony bill a release from financial prison, while others worry about an unfair future
7:09 PM, Apr 4, 2013
5:11 PM, Apr 5, 2013
TAMPA, Fla. - He no longer wears a wedding ring but he still wears a watch, and for Tom Crosier, time is ticking very slowly.
"My divorce was more traumatic than the death of both of my parents," he said.
Crosier recently ended his 18-and-a-half year marriage. In Florida, that lands him in the long-term marriage/permanent alimony category, which means he'll pay 40% of his salary to his ex-wife until he retires.
Except, now he can't afford to retire.
The same goes for many other clients at Chris Givens' family law firm.
"$1,000 a month to their spouse, to upwards of $10,000, and in some cases, even more than that a month," Givens explained. "The payor spouse generally does not want to pay alimony for the rest of their life or what feels like a life-sentence of alimony."
In cases like Crosier's, there's really no end in sight, unless the so-called "Alimony Bill" becomes law.
Right now, the Florida legislature is considering a bill in both the House and Senate that makes sweeping financial changes after a divorce.
Instead of permanent payments, it caps alimony at half the time of the marriage. In Crosier's case, forever would cut down to just nine years.
"To know there would be a specific date that I would no longer have to transfer money would be wonderful," he said. "It would allow me to plan my future."
The bill also caps alimony based on the payor's salary, and it gives couples the chance to modify their agreement, even years later. Even couples divorced before the law's enactment would have that chance.
"They're so happy about this new law, and then we have people who are devastated," explained family law attorney Lara Davis. "We are really seeing both side of it, very very high emotions on both sides."
Davis and her Women's Law Group partner, Deborah Thomson, admit their clients all have strong opinions, but they're not all positive, especially stay-at-home spouses facing divorce.
"There's not going to be any more permanent alimony, which means they've sacrificed their career to stay home with the kids, and now they're going to be severely limited," Thomson explained.
Even if the bill passes both the House and Senate, and even if Governor Scott signs it into law, family law attorneys expect challenges to race forward, questioning the constitutionality of modifying a contract that's already been signed.
Though Crosier worked while his ex-wife stayed at home, he believes nine years would offer plenty of time for his wife to find a job.
That way, he can finally benefit from his.
"It's almost like you're working for a stranger that's walking down the street," he said.