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Lawmaker pushes to decriminalize adultery cohabitation in Florida

A Florida lawmaker wants to do away with the second-degree misdemeanor for unmarried cohabitation, even though only 104 people have been arrested in the last 12 months for violating the state’s often forgotten law.

State Representative Ritch Workman, a Republican, recently announced that the cohabitation ban must go, as should the law against open adultery, the Tampa Tribune reports.

Workman told the news source that he does not wish to encourage or condone these activities, which could lead to divorce or other relationship issues, but believes the laws make the state look “foolish.” The law is rarely enforced, but that doesn’t make the state’s ban right, according to Workman.

“It’s not a crime – or it shouldn’t be,” the conservative explained to the publication.

The news source reports that more than 1 million people in Florida are technically committing a misdemeanor by practicing unmarried cohabitation, which is punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

According to State of Our Unions, the number of cohabitating, unmarried adult couples of the opposite sex has increase from approximately 439,000 in 1960 to 6.8 million in 2008.

Legal challenge on child support from fathers group rejected

Fathers and Families, a Boston-based fathers’ rights group, has lost its legal challenge against Massachusetts child support guidelines enacted in 2009, the Boston Globe reports. The Supreme Judicial Court unanimously upheld Massachusetts’ existing child support laws.

The organization argued that the state’s rules were enacted unlawfully, are unfair to fathers and may cause harm to parents making support payments.

The lawyer representing Fathers and Families told the court that the new guidelines were approved in a manner that was illegal and unconstitutional, because a judiciary made the final decision, not the legislature. However, the attorney representing the judge and the state’s court system explained that the legislature gave the power to amend child support guidelines to the top administrative judge in 1986.

Still, the advocacy group stated that it believes parents can end up paying excessive child support for children from a first marriage, leaving the spawn of subsequent marriages without basic needs due to lack of funds.

According to the Boston Herald, Fathers and Families has not given up the fight.

“We’re in this for the long haul,” Ned Holstein, founder and chairman of the organization told the publication. “The family courts have been hurting children’s lives for several decades.”

Massachusetts Alimony Reform Makes Waves

Massachusetts’ new alimony reform bill could be the model for future alimony laws in other states, and its provisions could be a welcome relief for ex-spouses burdened with alimony payments for years, says a divorce attorney in a recent Huffington Post article.

The bill, which survived the Massachusetts House of Representatives, could mean an end to lifetime spousal support after a divorce if it passes the Senate. This new post-divorce law could inspire other states to do the same.

“It is high time that the rest of the country took note,” the attorney wrote. “Why is it that one person is permitted to sit back and collect alimony long after the marriage, and often requiring the other spouse to continue working to support that individual?”

Massachusetts has long been on the cutting-edge of family law. The state passed a law allowing same-sex marriage in 2004, becoming the first U.S. state to do so. Since then, Iowa, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Washington D.C. and New York now allow it.

Regarding alimony law, the divorce lawyer hopes that a system will spread that limits the amount of time spousal support is expected, as this provision is designed to help the other spouses survive financially until they can support themselves.

Divorces made easier cheaper in Tennessee

The Tennessee Supreme Court has approved an easier, more straight-forward divorce system for couples without minor children or pension plans, The Commercial Appeal reports.

Starting September 1, eligible adults can file for uncontested divorces without lawyers thanks to new forms that avoid using confusing legal terms and include easy-to-read instructions and information about what will happen in court. This paperwork can also be downloaded online for more convenience.

The forms will not replace attorneys, but they will serve as a helpful resource when starting the divorce process. The goal of the new system is to make access to the legal system easier, especially for people from low socio-economic communities.

“The legal system should be accessible to all Tennesseans, regardless of income level,” Chief Jusice Cornelia A. Clark explained to the publication.

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, there were 56,441 marriages in 2009 and 25,879 divorces. Henderson County recorded the highest rate of divorce that year, recording 792 divorces at a rate of 29 per 1,000 population. The county with the next highest divorce rate was Tipton. The region’s 641 divorces in 2009 were at a rate of 10.6 per 1,000 population.

House proposes amendment to Mass. alimony reform

Two Republican members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives plan to file an amendment to the state’s alimony reform bill that would allow judges to halt or reduce payments in cases already settled under current law, according to the State House News Service.

The legislation would only affect merged cases, which are alimony cases the court retains jurisdiction over indefinitely. In those cases, judges have the authority to revise alimony payments even years after a divorce is finalized. Parties can also opt for agreeing to the terms of their divorce as final, known as “survives with independent legal significance,” which prevents judges from modifying their decisions at a later date.

The amendment, set to be submitted by Representatives Sheila Harrington of Groton and Daniel Winslow of Norfolk, would allow state courts to adjust or stop payments in all alimony cases.

Known as the Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act of 2011, the overall bill would alter how alimony payments are determined by Bay State authorities and place a cap on payments based on the duration of a marriage. The bill received initial approval from the House earlier this month.

The Boston Business Journal reports that if passed, the alimony reform bill would likely lower the cost of divorce proceedings and make it easier for divorce attorneys to advice their clients in those cases.