Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Victim #43: Dim Future For Navy Retiree

Here is my story. I left my wife of 23 years. I am a retired Navy O-4 with 24 years of service. My wife was awarded Alimony for life in the amount of $1000 per month as well as 50 percent of my Navy retirement “PAY”. After I pay the alimony, my net retirement pay is $427.02 per month before taxes for 24 years of service! I have now paid alimony at this level for 14 years.

In early 1993 my ex wife moved in with her significant other. They lived together in his house for the first couple of years where she paid his mortgage payment as well as money to fix up his house. Then she bought a house of her own in Satellite Beach in 1995. They moved there together and sold his house. They are still living there together today after 13 years. He contributes to the mortgage payment and other household expenses.

I took her back to court in 2000 to try to get alimony reduced or eliminated. She had more than doubled her annual income to approximately $40,000, was receiving about $1500 per month as half my retirement pay, was receiving the $1000 per month alimony and had someone else sharing her expenses. Her net worth in 2000 had grown to about $350,000 (This was her estimate which was well beyond conservative). To her credit, my ex wife has invested almost all of the alimony she has received (discovered in the 2000 court proceedings) which is a very strong indicator that she does not need the alimony for living expenses. She has made no effort whatsoever to go back to school or to improve her skills.

Our (current wife and my) net worth was well below hers in 2000 and we are not free spenders. Of course I started 1992 very deep in debt as a result of having to pay all divorce expenses while maintaining two residences through the completion of the divorce. It took years for me to dig back to ground zero again. The Brevard Judge who heard my case in 2000 agreed in his findings that I had a non-frivolous case. However, he did not change anything since (due to inflation) my alimony had he said, for all practical purposes, gone down already. He did make my ex pay all her own attorney’s fees since she could easily afford them. No judge wants to set a precedent such as terminating alimony in the State of Florida even if it is the right thing to do.

Since 2000 my ex wife has changed jobs again and is making even more money now. I know the company she works for (since I used to work for them too) and they are very generous with both salary and significant pension plan (beyond 401K). With the new Siplin bill (cohabitation bill), I have given some thought to taking her back to court again, but the judges will be very reluctant to establish case law favorable to those of us paying alimony.

Unless or until I can get rid of the alimony, I will have a very difficult time retiring for good. I will be 60 years old this coming May. If I try to retire and am forced to continue paying this alimony, my ex wife will live in luxury while I live in poverty. That is simply not fair to any of the men or women in Florida who must pay alimony for life or go to jail for making a private decision to get divorced. There are many examples of Florida men and women having to use their Social Security payments to continue providing alimony for 30 years and more – far longer than they were married.

The Alimony laws of the State of Florida are archaic and should be changed. Consider the model of Texas where just a couple of years of rehabilitative support is the norm for those who have the ability to improve themselves. Many states have no alimony. I ask for your consideration in introducing this new bill.