From Treasure Coast group seeks to abolish permanent alimony (www.tcpalm.com, 8/8/08):
Dick Lindsey decided something needed to be done.
Since his divorce in 1982, the Treasure Coast resident had paid more than $100,000 in alimony to ex-wife Barbara Lindsey while raising five of their children and not receiving child support.
Meanwhile, Barbara Lindsey, who couldn’t be reached for comment, had run for Florida lieutenant governor and held several government jobs.
“She told the people she was capable of being the governor, but she told the court she couldn’t take care of herself,” said Lindsey, now 73.
Fighting the court became a costly battle that Lindsey, a Port Salerno plumber, knew he couldn’t afford to win.
Instead, in 2000, he formed a group of local divorcees fed up with paying permanent alimony to former spouses who they say are capable of supporting themselves.
Calling themselves the Alliance for Freedom from Alimony Inc., the group seeks the abolishment of Florida’s permanent alimony statute, something group members describe as unconstitutional indentured servitude. The group now has more than 500 members and there are chapters in Georgia and Massachusetts.
Under Florida’s present permanent alimony laws, a divorcee can be ordered to pay a portion of his or her income to a former spouse until either of them dies.
The payments were designed to allow a former spouse to maintain their current lifestyle.
But the alliance feels Florida courts have allowed people to take advantage of the system.
The alliance favors an alternative similar to the Texas rules known as “spousal maintenance.”
In Texas, spousal maintenance allows the receiving party a maximum of whichever is less $2,500 per month or 20 percent of a former spouse’s monthly income. The payments last no more than three years, unless the receiver is disabled.
“If someone can’t establish and support themselves in three years, that person doesn’t deserve to be called an adult,” Lindsey said.
Stuart attorney Joseph L. Gufford III disagrees with the group’s position to abolish permanent alimony.
He acknowledges some people are unjustly required to pay alimony, but he said permanent alimony is only permanent until the paying party can prove the recipient is able support his or herself.
“If they do have the ability, they won’t receive alimony — if the job is done right,” Gufford said.
Alliance members, however, say the high cost of hiring a lawyer to end the alimony while at the same time maintaining alimony payments makes permanent alimony permanent…
Lindsey said 40 percent of the membership is female because more women are being forced to pay alimony to ex-husbands.
“If a woman is versatile and productive and ends up with a bum, she can be required to pay alimony,” he said. “It’s unreal.”
A few thoughts:
1) I do believe that alimony is appropriate under certain circumstances, such as when one parent has made substantial career sacrifices in order to be the primary caregiver for the couple’s children, and upon divorce their incomes are very unequal because of these sacrifices. I don’t believe in alimony when its purpose is to “allow a former spouse to maintain their current lifestyle.”
This is particularly true in the era of no fault divorce, when the vast majority of divorces are initiated by women. It’s one thing if a husband is abusive or a serial adulterer. It’s quite another if a woman decides to divorce her husband because she’s mad at him for whatever complicated reason and then gets to demand that he support her in the lifestyle she’s accustomed to.
2) I love the way men who don’t earn as much money as their wives are “bums.” If you’re a man, you can’t win. If you work hard to be a good provider for your family, then you’re blamed because you don’t do enough child care and housework. If you put your kids first and your career second and your wife out earns you, then you’re a lazy bum.
3) I don’t know the details of the Lindsey case, but if what the father says is true, that is an outrageous injustice. It’s also typical of the way fathers are treated–the fact that he was raising their kids was apparently totally disregarded.