TALLAHASSEE (FOX 13) - An alimony reform bill cleared its latest hurdle Tuesday and could be headed to the Florida Senate floor for a full vote.
The legislation (SB 668) would set new guidelines for the length of alimony payments, ending permanent alimony. It would also establish minimum and maximum amounts.
"I've seen my income steadily decline to a fraction of what it once was," said Tarie MacMillan, who traveled from Wimauma to Tallahassee to urge lawmakers to approve the bill.
MacMillan recently told FOX 13 her story: for the last 16 years, she's been paying her ex-husband 65 percent of her income; they were married for 13 years.
The payments have forced her to foreclose on her home and to declare bankruptcy.
"I'm not against alimony. There are situations where people need temporary alimony while they get back on their feet or learn a job skill," she said. "No adult should be living off of another adult for the rest of their lives."
Opponents like the Florida National Organization for Women, however, worry the mothers who have given up their careers to take care of their children could be forced back to work after years at home.
"We do not love this bill. We abhore this bill," said Barbara DeVane, a lobbyist with Florda NOW. "I am very much for women being independent but I am also very much for women having a choice."
The bill would also create a new set of child custody guidelines that could give more parents a 50-50 timeshare of their children; some lawmakers want judges to start with the assumption that an even split is best, or explain why it's not.
Bob Doyle, a retired Polk County circuit court judge, told senators he's not in favor of that idea.
"This is not what children need. Children need stability and stability is nowhere to be found in this 50-50 arrangement," he said.
Similar bills are working their way through the Florida House of Representatives, some of which split the alimony and child custody issues into separate legislation.
Several alimony reform bills have hit roadblocks in the past, including one in 2013 that was vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott because it was retroactive.