Husband and wife being distant in same room


SB 668 rally in tallahassee Sustainable Family SolutionsAs more than 100 of them crammed the waiting room and hallway of Gov. Rick Scott‘s office on Tuesday, advocates and opponents of this year’s alimony overhaul bill had a hollering battle over the contentious legislation.

The opponents, led by Florida National Organization for Women lobbyist Barbara DeVane, scheduled a meeting with Scott’s staff at 11 a.m. to register their condemnation of the bill (SB 668).

The governor has until next Tuesday (April 19) to act on the measure, the final one sent to him by the Legislature out of the 2016 Legislative Session. The bill passed the Senate 24-14 and the House 74-38.

Scott was not in the Capitol, however; he was in central Florida Tuesday morning for a jobs announcement, according to his daily schedule.

Nonetheless, alimony reform activists also were waiting, having held their own rally of about 40 people on the old Capitol steps earlier that morning. Some of their signs said “No lifetime alimony” and “Support equal parenting.”

Nearly all were wearing red, meant to symbolize “love, passion and solidarity,” said Alan Frisher, president of the Family Law Reform group.

The bill does two main things: It changes the way Florida judges can award alimony with the intent to eliminate what critics have called “forever alimony” and creates a starting point for judges deciding custody that children should spend equal time with each parent.

Scott vetoed another attempt to modify alimony law in 2013 because it “tamper(ed) with the settled economic expectations of many Floridians who have experienced divorce.”

As Scott’s staff kept everyone waiting for nearly an hour in what became a stiflingly hot reception area, the war of words got similarly heated, with two Capitol Police officers standing by to keep the peace.

“Can we get equal rights?” asked Army veteran David Henry of Melbourne, who later said he was fighting a custody battle with his ex over their 5-year-old daughter. He held a yellow T-shirt that said, “Fathers Stand Up.” “Any comment on the abuse of the system currently?”

“We did not interrupt you so we would appreciate it if you would be silent,” DeVane shot back. They weren’t.

Lawyers “encourage these women to take advantage of the system,” another woman soon said. “Not all of us!” still another said.

One man yelled at opponents of the bill to “feel free to get one” of the “one million great jobs” that Scott says were created in the state during his time in office. “Tell him you need a better job!”

A woman holding a toddler soon asked him to “hold it down” and she was immediately seized on for being an “irresponsible” parent.

Earlier at the pro-bill rally, Carl Messina, a deli meat distributor in Daytona Beach, said his ex-wife was still getting $10,000 a month in permanent alimony from him more than 10 years after their divorce. He said he can’t retire because he’ll still have to work just to afford the monthly payments.

“What, do I have to go to court and beg?” Messina said. “I tried that,” despite his ex-wife now operating a bed and breakfast in New Smyrna Beach. “Listen, anybody I ever told my story to says, ‘that’s not fair.’ “

But Tami Messina, his ex-wife, disputes his side of the story. “He has no idea how my business is doing; in fact, it’s still operating at a loss,” she said in a phone interview.

She also said she “built that business with him, which is why I asked for half” of it. He refused, “so that’s why I am at least getting the alimony … I mean, he makes things up. Most men do, I guess.”

For years, former spouses – mostly men – have said permanent alimony isn’t fair to them. Their exes, usually women, have fought back, saying they shouldn’t be penalized for having trouble re-entering the workforce after staying home for years to raise children.

The bill before Scott allows courts to reduce alimony payments if there is a “substantial change in circumstances.” That could mean the unemployment of the person paying, or the person being paid reaching the age to receive full Social Security benefits.

In the Governor’s Office, members of Scott’s staff members finally came out, spoke to both sides and took notes over the continued din of the waiting area.

“He could hear me,” DeVane later said of the staff member. “He got the message.”

But some opponents were bent out of shape when Family Law Reform’s Frisher appeared to be ushered inside for a private meeting.

Scott spokesman John Tupps said in an email that “members of the Governor’s leadership team met with leadership from both sides of the alimony debate” and “several members of our Citizen Services team also met with dozens of concerned citizens both in opposition to and support of the bill.”

“We appreciate their opinions and we think it is important for Floridians to be able to have their voices heard,” Tupps added, saying the office has received 10,000 calls or emails in support of the bill and nearly 3,000 opposed. “The Governor will continue to listen to Floridians that submit thoughts and views on this legislation.”

Originally Posted:

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Hi, I’m Lori Barkus, a family law attorney. My Colorado and Florida-based law firm helps women have a successful divorce by achieving the fairest resolution in the most efficient manner possible. And today, I’d like to talk to you about the what-ifs of divorce. Let’s say you’re thinking about divorce, or maybe your spouse has shared some shocking and devastating news about a betrayal or told you that they’re thinking about divorce, and you’re completely caught off guard by this. You’re still determining what you want at this point. You might still be thinking, maybe I can still save my marriage, or it might be unavoidable and the process is moving forward. Your friends and family are telling you that you should go forward. They’re telling you, you should talk to an attorney. You have so much going on. You know you need help but you’re trying to figure out where to go.

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Divorce FAQs

A divorce mediator is a neutral party who does not represent either person in a divorce. They can help you and your spouse reach an agreement on all divorce-related issues such as child support, parenting plans, dividing property and spousal support. Divorce mediation usually works best when both parties generally agree on how they want to resolve the various issues and are on amicable terms. At Barkus law, we provide a service that includes both mediation time to discuss and work out the details of your divorce as well as the preparation of all divorce-related documents you will need to file with the court. Although she is a family law attorney, in her role as a mediator, Lori Barkus cannot file paperwork on your behalf, nor can she provide you with legal advice. However, she can prepare all of the documents for you and give you detailed step-by-step instructions about how to file your paperwork. Should you have legal questions or require that paperwork filed on your behalf, you should speak with a qualified attorney about your rights and obligations before and even during the mediation process. Mediation is a low-cost and less stressful way to “untie the knot.” Sustainable Family Solutions offers a flat fee for the mediation process and an additional fee for preparing the documents you need to file with the court. Please call us for details.

In a collaborative divorce, both parties are represented by separate attorneys. The parties and their lawyers sign an agreement not to go to court and instead work together to create an agreement that is best for the parties and their children. The parties can end the process if it does not work, but, if they go to court to have a judge decide, they will each need to hire another lawyer. This keeps the lawyers and parties invested in reaching an agreement. Collaborative divorce can cost far less than a traditional or litigated divorce and can help preserve the family and keep children out of the process. If you are interested in a consultation or have questions, do not hesitate to contact Sustainable Family Solutions. Simply click here and send us a message and we’ll get right back to you.

In order to obtain a divorce, one party needs to state that he or she has lived in Florida for six months and that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
A divorce can be granted over one party’s objection. As long as one party meets residency requirements and states that the marriage is irretrievably broken, there is no way to object to or to stop the divorce process from moving forward.

While you are not required to have a lawyer represent you, not having a lawyer can put you at a disadvantage. It is very important that you understand your rights and obligations before you reach any settlement or go to court. You may decide to seek legal advice or representation if you have questions about your rights in the divorce process.

While alimony can be modified, requesting a modification doesn’t mean you’ll get one. It’s not a matter of simply going before a judge and telling them that you no longer can pay what you have been paying your ex-spouse. These cases must be prepared carefully and those seeking a modification must be able to state a legal basis for the change. Under Florida statute 61.13, the trial court judge has the discretion as to whether alimony will be modified. It provides that when “the circumstances or the financial ability of either party changes” either party may apply for an order decreasing or increasing the amount of alimony and the court has jurisdiction to make orders as equity requires, with “due regard to the changed circumstances of the financial ability of the parties.” The party seeking the modification carries the burden to justify the reduction by having to prove a substantial change in circumstances since the original alimony order and that the change in circumstances was not contemplated at the time of the final order of dissolution. The change also has to be “sufficient, material, involuntary and permanent in nature.” In other words, the party seeking a reduction can’t quit a job that paid them $100,000 a year and accept a job that pays significantly less. When it comes to being permanent in nature, this depends on the facts and circumstances of a particular case. Should the spouse paying alimony choose to retire, the court can take that into consideration. However, that doesn’t mean there will be an automatic reduction or termination of alimony. The court has to consider the age of the payor, his or her health, and the reason for their decision to retire as well as the financial circumstances of the recipient. There are many scenarios that can be contemplated when seeking modification of alimony. Modifications require the consultation and assistance of an attorney who understands the process, the risks and the likelihood of success. If you are interested in a consultation or have questions do not hesitate to contact Sustainable Family Solutions. Simply click here and send us a message and we will get right back to you.

The goal of shared parenting is for parents to collaborate and to remain actively involved in their child’s life, not just on weekends or holidays. In most cases, parents share parental responsibility and make decisions together regarding education, health, and other important matters. Timesharing refers to the time each parent is allowed to spend with the child or children. In more and more cases, parents have equal or nearly equal timesharing with the children. Historically, most children whose parents divorce have spent a majority of their time living with one parent — usually the mother — with the other parent getting visitation rights. However, there has been a big push in recent years to balance the amount of time children spend with both parents, giving parents the opportunity to be actively involved in the raising of their children. In most states, including Florida, judges make custody decisions based on a”best interest of the child” standard. However, judges need not explain the reason(s) for their decisions. Several states have gone so far as to pass shared parenting legislation. In 2013, Florida lawmakers approved an alimony reform law that included a provision for shared parenting. However, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the bill. Equal timesharing isn’t for everyone and works best for those who are ready, willing and able to take on responsibilities for their child. If you are interested in a consultation or have questions do not hesitate to contact Sustainable Family Solutions. Simply click here and send us a message and we will get right back to you.

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