CRESTVIEW — The days of a Florida ex-spouse potentially paying alimony even after death may end if reform bills working their way through the Legislature make it to the governor's desk.
"What we are talking about is trying to put fairness into the law," John Fromularo, Northwest Florida representative of Florida Alimony Reform, said while speaking to the Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce Government Issues Committee.
Alimony types include "bridge the gap," which helps the ex-spouse during a transition from being married to single; durational, from two years to the marriage's length; rehabilitative, paid until an ex-spouse is self-supporting; and permanent, Fromularo said.
House bill 231, co-sponsored by area Rep. Matt Gaetz, and Senate bill 718 would reform five areas, as follows:
•Remove "permanent alimony."
"We have people paying permanent alimony on four-, six- or 10-year marriages," Fromularo said.
Permanent alimony may dissuade divorced people from remarrying because they want to avoid paying alimony if their next marriage fails or they're receiving money they would lose if they remarry.
People paying permanent alimony generally must carry alimony insurance to ensure payments continue if they die before their former spouse, Fromularo said.
•Provide the right to retire at federal retirement age without continued alimony payments.
"This is a real hot point," Fromularo said. "Now you're 55. What are you going to do the next 10 or 15 years to continue paying alimony?
"Americans should have the right to retire. This is like indentured servants, except indentured servants had a period of time to be set free."
•Set alimony based on the average of both spouses' incomes.
"You can't take a married couple, break it in half and still maintain the same standard of living," Fromularo said. "(Currently), there is no formula .... We need to take away some of that discretion of the judges."
•Block "second" spouses' income as a factor for additional alimony.
"(Currently), if the alimony payer remarries into a better situation, the ex-spouse can decide his or her needs went up and can demand more alimony," Fromularo said. "If you get remarried and you're doing better, that doesn't mean that your ex-spouse should get a raise."
•Provide the right to modify a judgment.
Formularo doesn't dispute the need for alimony, but he said it shouldn't be permanent.
Crestview native and Iraq War veteran Victor Everett learned firsthand the complications of divorce.
The combat-decorated former Navy corpsman, a holder of the Navy Commendation Medal for Valor, has post-traumatic stress disorder that initially resulted in permanent disability.
While dealing with combat-related medical issues, Everett and his wife divorced in 2010.
As Everett's health improved, his disability was reduced to 60 percent, which resulted in a reduction of his monthly benefits. Paying child support on top of studying at Northwest Florida State College proved difficult, and convinced him that it is time for a change.
"These laws change the lives of people all over the state," he said. "Divorce is easy. It's the post-divorce that sucks."
Ultimately, the goal is fairness, Formularo, who himself pays alimony, said.
"I'm a retired Marine officer. I didn't commit any crimes. Why am I sentenced for the rest of my life?"