Thirty years ago, at 14, I was a child who made a huge mistake. I married my first boyfriend because I was pregnant with his child. I found myself trapped in an abusive relationship with a man who abused pain medication every day, refused to work and only wanted to live off government assistance. I didn’t believe in any of that and vowed to work myself out of that life.
Against all odds, I went to college, got my degree and became a public-school teacher in Florida. I loved working with children in school and spending time with my own children. During this time, my husband became more abusive. Ten years ago, I got the courage to leave the marriage with the hope of building a happy life for myself and my children.
However, during the divorce, I learned a word I had never known — alimony. It never occurred to me that if I left this horrible situation, I would have to continue to work to pay a significant amount of my hard-earned income to a man who refused to work, abused his family and still refuses to even look for work. How could this happen?
Actually, Florida law allows it to happen, and divorce lawyers drain families of all their savings and assets to get as much alimony as possible for their clients, in this case my ex-husband. The inconsistency of outcomes in court encourages costly, lengthy litigation. And, who really wins? Divorce lawyers.
I was forced to pay permanent lifetime alimony to a man who never cared for his children, who lives far away and who has never even tried to sustain himself. I have been paying him for the past 10 years, while I continue to work and better myself. How can the courts say that I have to do this forever, until I die. How is this fair?
I implore Gov. Ron DeSantis to sign the alimony reform legislation — Senate Bill 1796 — into law. The bill proposes reasonable guidelines and makes it harder for divorce lawyers to use children as bargaining chips during divorce proceedings when mothers and fathers are already going through a challenging time.
The bill also creates parameters for the already existing “right to retire” for alimony payers like me, which are rarely enforced by the courts. Even trying to modify modifiable alimony agreements is cost-prohibitive thanks to antiquated laws and divorce attorneys’ fees. The governor can help Florida’s families by signing SB 1796 into law, bringing equity, predictability and an opportunity for alimony payers like me to retire with dignity.
Sonia Delgado is an Ocala public school teacher who currently is paying her ex-husband lifetime alimony.