In recent months there appears to be a heated debate on and off line regarding Florida’s proposed new alimony laws. The Official Site of Florida Alimony Reform as well as many media sources point to a video featuring a retired doctor, Michael Morgan who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and no longer walks or talks. The video shows his current wife and full-time caregiver, Linda Morgan caring fro him. Dr. Morgan was ordered to pay lifetime alimony of $25,200/year to his first wife of 36 years.
Mrs. Morgan is an advocate of the bill. She states that they spent over $100,000 in attorney fees trying to get the alimony reduced or stopped to no avail. In addition the judge ordered that Dr. Morgan pay his ex’s legal fees.
After seeing the video and reading the above, you initial reaction may be of shock and disbelief …
However, the general public (as in you and I) do not see the entire picture that the judge sees. Dr. Morgan is 72 years old and was married to his ex fro 36 years. According to my calculations they were married in the 60s – an era where women were encouraged to stay at home and be a housewife, many did not work. One source states that the ex has 3 degrees. My questions would be:
- Is she currently working?
- What is her net worth?
- What is Dr. Morgan’s net worth?
- Does she live with another man?
- Was she a full time student during the marriage which attributes to her degrees – but because of her current age she may lack the ability to enter into the field?
- Does Linda Morgan “hate’ the ex and just does not want to pay her for personal reasons or that of greed – since every penny paid to the ex could potentially be hers in the event of Dr. Morgan’s demise?
Lifetime Alimony Advocates and Opponents:
Supporters of the new alimony laws state that the laws are antiquated because they were formed when women did not work and were expected to stay at home.The divorce rate was also lower during this time.
The first state to change it’s alimony law was Massachusetts, which adopted it’s new alimony law in 2011. Steve Hitner started the Massachusetts Alimony Reform in 2006. Upon his divorce he had a thriving printing business and was ordered to pay his ex $45,000/year in lifetime alimony. When he fell on hard times he had to file bankruptcy and his house got foreclosed. He paid thousands of dollars to have his alimony reduced to no avail.
Massachusetts new alimony law varies depending upon the length of the marriage, the finances of each spouse and allows the person paying alimony to have the terms modified or ended if their financial situation changes.
Some sources state that the goal of the new law in Florida is to prohibit lifetime alimony regardless of the individual situation. The law also calls for alimony payments to end when the payer reaches retirement age.
Supporters state that the current laws discourage recipients of alimony to remarry, allowing them to co-habit with new mates while continuing to receive lifetime alimony payments. They also state that the payer is not responsible to support their ex for life and that many use their alimony as a reason not to work and support themselves.
Opponents of the law state that the new laws will prohibit judges from making decisions regarding individual cases.They also state that strict laws regarding time limits could leave the recipient of alimony impoverished once the alimony ends.
My 2-cents: In my experience of working in social services the one thing that I learned, is that every family situation is unique. There is no way that one law can meet the needs of every single person. The laws are outdated and are in need of revisions, however such things as lifetime alimony and ending the alimony when the payer reaches retirement age, should not be set in stone. There should be tougher guidelines that allow the judge to make individual decisions based on all the facts of that marriage.
Lifetime alimony may be needed by those that are unable to work due to physical reasons as well education. Another thing to consider is the age of the person receiving alimony. It is more difficult for a person over 50 to get a decent paying job if they have no work history. Another thing to consider is that if alimony is stopped at the payers retirement age – lets say 67, and the recipient is 60, the recipient has NO means of receiving retirement benefits and if they do not already have a job, this could lead them to become impoverished and possibly even homeless.
There are too many things to consider regarding lifetime alimony. If a recipient is over 50 with no job skills, are we doing her (or him) a service or disservice by stopping the alimony and forcing her to go work for minimum wage? There are many baby boomers who are now getting divorced. Early in their marriage they made the choice together that one should work and the other should stay at home. Isn’t the stay at home partner deserving to have the same life that they became accustomed to? There are too many scenarios to mention them all – both for and against the alimony laws ….