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Other Views from Those in the Know
Jan Nastasia
Divorced Woman Worried about Alimony Reform

 I'm a 53-year-old divorced mother of three adult children who was married for 24 years and gave up a career 29 years ago while my ex-husband climbed the corporate ladder. 

I was awarded lifetime alimony in Florida and spent almost two years looking for a job.  I am now a full-time nanny for an attorney.

During my divorce, I was evaluated by a vocational expert, who testified at trial that I could potentially make $29,000 a year.  My alimony was based on that figure.  I do not make that much money as a nanny and do not get health benefits.

In the meantime, my ex-husband’s company assigned him to a new job out of state.  During our divorce, he earned a salary of $250,000 with an average annual bonus of $45,000 plus stock options. 

The court ordered a wage garnishment.  I live in the marital home we purchased in 2005 for $399,900. He moved to California and bought a $750,000 home, where he lives with his new wife and her children.

In May 2011, he lost his job but was given $375,000 in stock options.  For the next 18 months, he did not pay alimony.  He filed a “Motion to Eliminate Alimony,” claiming he had no money to pay me. 

One month later he purchased a ski cabin in Nevada for $140,000 in cash.  Currently there are two contempt orders and two arrest warrants issued in Palm Beach County for him.  He now works for a company in St. Louis and is waiting for the Florida Legislature to pass alimony reform. 

He owes me $78,000 in overdue alimony.

I am struggling to put food on my table and pay my mortgage. I  was recently denied health insurance. I've considered applying for food stamps. 

Last month, I became aware of a group called Florida Second Wives Club. The organization is working with Ritch Workman, a Brevard County legislator to pass House Bill 549, which would allow judges to reopen divorce agreements. 

If passed, this legislation would severely harm the first wives of the men who got divorced in Florida. It would end permanent alimony and halt alimony when the person paying it reaches retirement age.

From what I have read, this group is very confident that alimony reform will be passed soon.  The Florida Alimony Reform (FAR) website states, "We have learned volumes of knowledge of how to make real alimony reform happen…We've been very busy working with our lobbyists, the media, many daily emails and phone calls for FAR."

A recent article http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/florida/os-scott-maxwell-divorce-alimony-112011-20111119,0,40890.column made reference that several legislators who are  divorced or are going through one.  

I spend most of my week on playgrounds and in carpools and not one stay-at-home mom I've spoken to knows anything about this bill. 

Rep. Will Weatherford, the new Speaker of the House, recently stated, "Over the next two years, there will be many issues presented to this legislative body.  We will prepare - to the best of our ability - approaches that will be based on the principles of the majority and the legitimate concerns of the minority.” 

The Second Wives Club refers to permanent alimony as "the alimony lottery," and refers to ex-spouses as: “a perpetual dependent; the payer is a personal welfare department.  With purse strings tied forever, a divorced couple can never fully move on with their lives." 

If alimony reform passes, then I can join the 1.1 million Floridians on food stamps.  I'll be standing in line for my welfare check while my ex-husband is skiing in Lake Tahoe.

A recent study http://blog.nj.com/njv_guest_blog/2012/10/on_divorce_and_alimony_nj_on_w.html has found women are the ones who suffer the deepest financial wounds when families split up. 

“In the depths of the Great Recession in 2009, 23 percent of women who divorced in the previous year were likely to receive public assistance such as welfare and food stamps."  

"Alimony reform would undo the legislative and judicial policy of basic fairness in providing support for the economically dependent member of a marriage,” the blog post says.

"If these piecemeal proposals are signed into law, even more women will be forced into poverty and resort to public aid - not because they want to, but because they have no choice."

I don't have the resources to tell my story to legislators, the media, lobbyists nor can I send out volumes of emails or make phone calls.

My day is spent potty training, supervising nap time and teaching a 2-year-old “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” 

Jan Nastasia is founder of FirstWivesFirst. She can be contacted at FirstWivesFirst@gmail.com

Published Thursday, December 06, 2012