The Case For Alimony Reform - Another View

Attorney Mark Sessums recently published an article in the Family Law Commentator, Winter 2013 edition which I would like to respond to. While the article defended the continued use of permanent alimony in family law actions it seemed equally bent on painting the movement known as Florida Alimony Reform "FAR" as a small group of male dominated vindictive extremists.

Although I am not a member of "FAR" it is my opinion as a divorced middle aged man paying permanent alimony, who is also a family law practitioner with over 30 years of experience, that the amendments being sought are reasonable and make a lot of sense. What the amendments seek to do is bring consistency and uniformity to the way trial courts rule in alimony cases by providing guidelines on amount and duration. I believe guidelines are long overdue. Those attorneys that have been practicing family law long enough remember the days when there were no child support guidelines. The amount of child support awarded varied widely from Judge to Judge. Forget the fact that the amounts ordered varied significantly from the different regions around the state. It was not unusual to have significant differences in awards from Judges down the hall from one another. If one examines Florida Statute 61.29 child support guidelines; principles, the stated purpose of guidelines is to "encourage fair and efficient settlement of support issues... and minimizes the need for litigation". Would not the same logic apply to alimony awards? I believe the answer is a definite yes. Cases would be easier to settle and there would be a realistic expectation as to duration and amount in rulings from the bench.

As to the elimination of "permanent" alimony, the proposed amendments to the alimony statute clearly provide the court with the ability to extend the length of an award of durational alimony.

Finally should any of my fellow brothers and sisters of the bar think that the proposal for alimony guidelines is not mainstream, I would point out that the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers has recommended alimony guidelines for several years. The stated goal in providing guidelines was to have a more predictable and equitable result in alimony cases. This seems to be fair to all.

Alan Elkins graduated with honors from the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in political science in 1975. He obtained his law degree from Nova Southeastern University in 1978. He was admitted to The Florida Bar in 1978 and has been practicing law since 1979. He is qualified to practice in federal court in both the Southern and Middle Districts of Florida. He has handled several thousand cases in the areas of bankruptcy and divorce. Mr. Elkins is married, and has three sons and two stepsons.

Areas of Practice: Bankruptcy, Divorce and Personal Injury
Bar Admissions: Florida, 1978, U.S. District Court Southern District of Florida and U.S. District Court Middle District of Florida
Education: Nova Southeastern University Center for the Study of Law, Boca Raton, Florida — 1978 and University of Florida (Bachelor's Degree – 1975) (Major: Political Science)