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Law Aims to Stop Alimony Schemers; an Ex-Spouse Who Lives with a New Partner Could See Their Payments Cut off More Easily

Article excerpt

Byline: CARLY ROTHMAN

A new state law will protect Florida's alimony payers from being scammed by exes who enter cohabitational relationships but don't legally marry so they can continue to collect alimony.

But critics of the law say it opens the door to abuses that could leave single mothers and deserted wives without support.

The bill, introduced by state Sen. Gary Siplin, passed in May 34-6 in the Senate and 68-44 in the House. The bill was signed last week by Gov. Jeb Bush.

Siplin, D-Orlando, said he filed the bill after hearing from people who must pay alimony to ex-spouses who are being financially supported by new partners. Siplin said he was particularly moved by the stories from new wives of divorced men who said their husbands were still paying alimony.

"It's not fair to his new family," Siplin said.

Siplin described the bill as "pro-family, pro-faith and pro-marriage." Although the new law does not deal with child support payments, Siplin believes it will benefit children by discouraging their parents from moving in with lovers to whom they are not married, which Siplin said is detrimental to the children.

Previously, a judge could order a reduction, increase or termination of alimony based on changes to the financial status of either ex-spouse.

The new law asks judges to decide whether the alimony recipient and his or her partner act like a married couple, with their finances forming just one aspect of their behavior.

"All we did with our vote was to allow a judge to consider how the couple -- usually the ex-wife and her new mate -- are comporting themselves and holding themselves out," said Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville.

King voted for the bill after hearing testimony from alimony payers whose ex-spouses have entered "de facto marriages," moving in with new partners, introducing those partners as their husband or wife and even holding wedding-like commitment ceremonies without filing for a marriage license.

"What we decided to say is, 'OK, Judge, you decide if this is a situation of two people dating or two people who are perpetrating a lie by telling people they are married when in fact they are not,' " he said, describing these relationships as "grossly unfair" to the former spouses who are forced to continue paying alimony. …