Tuesday

Gender Bias in Florida's Court System: Equitable Distribution and Spousal Support

1. Fault plays a definite role in some marital dissolutions, despite the characterization of Florida's divorce law as being "no-fault." The statute's alimony section provides that the adultery of either spouse may be considered when determining the amount of the alimony, if any. Because women historically are the ones who must seek alimony, however, they have been disproportionately affected by findings of fault.

2. In many areas of the state, the courts have virtually abandoned permanent alimony or substituted in its place unrealistic rehabilitative alimony awards.

3. Many judges fail to award permanent alimony, preferring instead to use the vehicle of equitable distribution. Yet, because men usually have a greater earning potential, women are disadvantaged by "equitable" distribution when martial assets are too slight to provide sufficient income.

4. In equitable distributions, men generally receive sixty-five to seventy-five percent of the marital assets compared to twenty-five to thirty-five percent for women.

5. The new equitable distribution statute has an extensive list of factors to be considered in distributing assets, but it lacks a requirement of written findings of fact. This allows a trial court almost unreviewable discretion in dividing marital property.

6. The major asset of most marriages is the earning capacities of the partners.

7. Before the no-fault divorce and equitable distribution statutes were adopted, courts usually allowed the custodial parent and children to occupy the family home after divorce, in addition to receiving support. Common practice today, however, is to order sale of the family home so that a cash settlement can be made for equitable distribution purposes.

8. As a result of their almost unlimited discretion, trial courts distribute marital assets either as property or alimony with a lack of certainty and consistency. This may lead to inappropriate property settlements between the parties.

--1990 Florida Supreme Court Gender Bias Report

And Florida fixed this by enacting "time-sharing" law?
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Foolishly, I believed that all divorces were decided upon fault. I mean, isn't it always someone's fault that the marriage did not last? What I mean is that, I thought the grounds of the divorce were based upon what the couple wanted to publicly acknowledge (in the courtroom and on paper) as to what ended the marriage. And I believed that the court system would make determinations based on these facts.

Little did I know that Florida was a no fault divorce state. I should have gotten divorced somewhere like Pennsylvania:
  • willful and malicious and absence from the marital home...check, or
  • adultery...check, or
  • extreme cruelty...check, or
  • bigamy...almost, or
  • imprisonment..if only the military took family violence seriously, or
  • insanity...he was much to "cool" to be insane (yet if he killed me, certainly he would have plead insanity)
or Georgia:
  • Intermarriage by persons within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity or affinity...um, no, or
  • Mental incapacitation...who, me or him? or
  • Impotence at the time of getting married...can this include intra-maritally acquired impotence? or
  • Force, duress and fraud...what about feeling forced by the Department of Health and Human Services, in collusion with the church, to marry your babydaddy?, or
  • Pregnancy of the wife by a man other than the husband, at the time of the marriage, unknown to the husband...what about pregnancy of an ex-girlfriend, by a man that is your husband, at the time of the marriage, unknown to the wife, until husband decided to tell wife, then ex-girlfriend tells wife this isn't her first pregnancy by husband?, or, isn't this the next category anyway
  • Adultery by either spouse...can you have a pregnancy without adultery?, or
  • Willful and continued desertion by either of the spouses for the term of 1 year...what about for 6-9 months? how long should a spouse wait?, or
  • Conviction of a felony and imprisoned for a term of 2 years or longer...two years? by the way, you can get out of this waiting period via adultery, oh, but then it becomes YOUR fault, or
  • Habitual drunkenness...which may get you out of the marriage, but keep in mind that it doesn't get him away from your kids, or
  • Cruel treatment...same as above, or
  • Incurable mental illness...if you can trust any shrink, or
  • Habitual drug addiction...see "habitual drunkeness"

Now that I'm thinking about it, why can't you get a divorce just because? Yes, there is that good ol' irreconcilable differences category--which is automatic in no-fault states. But why do you need to make a declaration to the government about why your marriage didn't succeed? And why the hell do they need to approve it? Something is every wrong here. (I think we have gone wrong here in allowing the government to approve and sanction marriages, which therefore allows them to be involved in the dissolution. We are not married to the govt. They don't take part in our relationships. They aren't buying us rings or flowers, cooking us dinner...but some could argue that they are raising our kids and giving us a good fuck!) We the people need to take our lives back.

Anyway, so we divorced on irreconcilable differences, after living in separate households for a couple of years, but you see clearly none of this was my fault. I took about all I could have taken from this bastard. I could do bad all by myself!

However, if given the opportunity, would I even want to acknowledge, on paper, that my former spouse was a cheatin', baby-havin', rapin' bastard? No. I just wanted to be divorced, plain and simple. I wanted to move on and had moved on--I didn't even think the divorce was a requirement--it was more of a hassle. (however, in hindsight, it WAS a requirement for him and his "situation") It wasn't until he decided to fight me, less than a year later, for child visitation and custody--the same thing that had been already settled in the "amicable" divorce.

What happened? 1.He still kept having babies which complicated 2. Child support.

So when I went back to court to now introduce the parts about the marriage--the infidelity and abuse--the judge let me get in a couple sentences, and then cut me off. That shit wasn't important [to him]. I also learned from an attorney that it technically wasn't valid since I didn't mention it during the final divorce decree. Okay so if it isn't valid, how is his late child visitation and custody claim any more valid?

There were no assets, nothing to equally distribute except the debt, which neither of us bothered to sort out. The result: he rebuilt his life rather quickly, as he was the one employed by the military, and for me.................still recovering. As I stated in a previous post, I didn't consider asking for alimony originally because I didn't realize that I was in such a bad position. I just wanted to get back on track with my goals and I had no idea how difficult it would be...especially when your ex-spouse can take you back to court on an endless modification (and yet I couldn't go back and ask for alimony).

What earning capacity do you have when you have been a stay at home mother, a student, and a seasonal wage earner with totally screwed up credit and thousands in loans? The capacity only lies in the future. What does that have to do with the right now?