An incident in a courtroom in Clearwater demonstrated the highly contentious nature of alimony payments. Due to these tensions, Florida has had a number of attempted reforms in recent years, especially related to permanent alimony payments, which can become a huge financial burden over time.
One day in a Clearwater courthouse shows how alimony issues can change lives
The incident in question is related to a six-year-long divorce battle between a local doctor and his ex-wife. The doctor was initially supposed to send about $20,000 a month in temporary alimony payments, and this amount was based on the fact that he made a multi-million dollar annual salary as a surgeon with the Laser Spine Institute. One of the reasons for the high payment was due to his wife’s claimed blood circulation condition, which causes her to constantly faint. She requires special treatment and health insurance to cover the costs of medical care associated with the condition. She also said that the payments her ex-husband sent out were constantly late, and she was stressed by worrying whether or not she would be able to get necessary treatment over the last twelve months.
Both the doctor and his family law attorney claim that the condition is being faked for the purpose of getting more money. Many women sat in the audience to offer support as part of a larger agenda that is playing out in the state’s capital in Tallahassee. Most of these spectators were essentially homemakers in their fifties and sixties, and their lives changed drastically after their divorces.
Another different interest group is already working to try to get alimony laws changed in Florida. The group is mostly made up of people with large alimony payments and their current spouses, who claim that their quality of life is severely affected by making the payments every month. They are working to get legislation passed that would transform alimony into a system more like child support, where similar income-based guidelines would be used, and permanent periodic alimony would be abolished.
These kinds of issues have created a system where alimony is the most intensely debated and litigated issue in the family court system in the United States. Based on stories of extreme conflict, it is easy to see why. On both sides of the courtroom, someone’s entire financial future can become much better or worse based on a judge’s order for alimony. Tax dollars have to be used to pay judges who must spend long hours looking for overpayment histories and dealing with a couple’s disputes for months, or years, in some cases.
The divorce industry is supported, at least in part, due to the high stakes involved in one party being ordered to make very large payments. Some clients are known to push the issue based on self-interest, even if legal professionals advise against a lengthy court battle due to the time and money investments involved. If one party to the divorce wants to try to get large alimony payments or a disproportionate property settlement, they both may end up spending years in litigation.
There are a number of cases of people with long term alimony orders in place who sometimes cannot modify their payments, even after losing jobs or switching careers into a field with much less earning potential. Other conflicting stories come from former homemakers who find that they need to get by on minimum wage jobs, due to the inconsistent nature of alimony payments and problems with enforcement. Some are technically owed large amounts that have accumulated over the years and are having difficulty getting the money owed to them. IRS records from 2017 show that U.S. taxpayers owed about $2 billion more in alimony than the amount that was actually received by former spouses during that year.
The most recent alimony battle in Florida can be traced to a handful of advocacy groups that became active between 2012 and 2013. The state has still not completely overhauled the alimony system in a way that is different from the procedures and rules that have already been in place for decades.
What is the best way to deal with alimony issues?
The starting point for anyone going through a divorce is to retain your own attorney. This is crucial to learn about what exactly is at stake in your particular situation. If alimony is a possibility based on the lopsided earning potential between the two spouses, it is important to have an experienced legal professional advocating on your behalf.
Learn more about getting assistance during a divorce battle
For advice and guidance related to divorces, alimony payments, child support, custody, and any other related issues, contact The Law Offices of Yeazell and Sweet. They are available to assist in the family court system in Clearwater and nearby areas.