When the Space Shuttle Dies, It’s Boys Against Girls

As the Space Shuttle sinks, the alimony wars are set to soar.

The end of the 30-year-old Space Shuttle Program is old news, but every layoff hits every worker and every family hard when the pink slip finally comes. And a new round of layoffs is scheduled for October.

The folks who lose their jobs at the Kennedy Space Center have a special burden that those at the Houston office don’t. In Texas, alimony is limited to three years after a 10-year-long marriage. In Florida, family courts are heavily biased against men, and much of the alimony that’s doled out, even to women in their 30s and 40s, is permanent. There’s an industry of attorneys who only represent men. It’s the boys vs. the girls from the get-go, and the prevailing attitude is that men are sugar daddies and women are helpless.

Ninety-seven percent of alimony payers are men. In rare cases in Florida, when women are ordered to pay alimony, it’s short-term.

Walking papers in hand, laid-off workers must return to divorce court, plead for relief in their alimony payments, and hope against hope that it’s coming. It helps to show up with a lawyer, and it helps to expect the worst. A judge told a petitioner several years ago that he should have been saving money for alimony in case he lost his job.

One laid-off worker already filed court papers. What should be an ordinary adjustment escalated once his ex-wife claimed that he, a lead engineer on 100 Space Shuttle launches, quit work voluntarily. Her lawyer is demanding three years of pay stubs and bank statements—and threatening to plunder his 401K for her legal fees. He fears the worst; he declared bankruptcy after his divorce. His attorney wanted—and got—$10,000 up front.

For him and other payers, there is no automatic end to or reduction in alimony, even at retirement, even when it the payer is disabled or retirement is required, as with airline pilots. Couples divide marital assets, including pensions—or judges divide them, often giving women more than half—and the payer is expected to work forever or use his assets to pay alimony, even though the ex has gotten her fair share. A payer’s new wife can even get embroiled when the ex-wife makes a claim on her resources.

Payers are afraid to tell their stories because they’re ashamed, don’t want to hurt their children, and because going public might hurt a court case.

Last year, the Florida legislature made a few changes in the laws, and cut down on the wholesale awards of permanent alimony to all, but did nothing to protect people who want or need to retire, and nothing to help the thousands of payers already burdened by crushing debt, with no light, ever, at the end of the tunnel. This year, a grassroots organization, Florida Alimony Reform, is pushing for real change. Opposition will come from the Florida Family Bar, a powerful force in state politics.

As the Space Shuttle sinks, the alimony wars are set to soar.

Elizabeth Benedict is a novelist and journalist who writes often about alimony reform and wrote the Boston Globe op-ed that ignited the reform movement in Massachusetts.

Tom Matlack also writes about the end of the Space Program: Who Has ‘The Right Stuff’ Now.

Photo loomingy1/Flickr


  1. To learn more about the abuses in the Florida Family Court System, kindly visit us at http//www.floridaalimonyreform.com. You will certainly be amazed.


  2. Indentured servant for life says:

    Excellent article bringing to light haow the family law sector never lets a good crisis go to waste. How can they possible sleep at night? Special thanks go out to Elizabeth Benedict for this informative article and also thanks to the Good Men Project. This type of reaction by the family courts are typical, not the exception. I am certain to be bankrupt in the very near future without any possibility to save the house. I will be forced into the street, then to the courts, and then to jail. I am currently forced to forfeit 50% of my take home pay to be given to a perfectly healthy individual with no return on my labors.

  3. Thanks Elizabeth, I’m sending an email now.

  4. Way to go!!!! I got raped by the courts in New Jersey which is another state that is as bad as Florida. I’ve taken the ex back several times to get it reduced. Once I was out of work for 6 months and the arrears kept accruing.I went to court to have the arrers eliminated. The judge said no. I and many others need help in NJ. I cant keep paying the ex $600 a week plus $35 a week for arrears. I’m 54 years old make around $100K per year. They all look at the men like we are scum. I’m planning on taking early retirement at 62. I’l be damed if I am going to pay another dime of alimony after that. At that point i’ll be ready to go to jail to make a point.

    • Elizabeth Benedict says:

      RE New Jersey. If you write to me via email, I might be able to put you in touch with some people who are thinking of starting a reform group in NJ. info@elizabethbenedict.com

    • Clinton Roberson says:

      Florida and New Jersey are not alone. Alabama is just as bad.
      I spent my entire life working to have a comfortable retirement, then like a fool married this woman consierably younger than I. But, she was well educated and had a good job….I certainly was not looking for someone to support. Soon after marriage she decided that I made enough money to support both of us so she quit her job. I should have divorced her then but tried to make it work and tried to convince her to go back to work. She refused. Long story short. I spent 13 years supporting her and Judge Bell in Huntsville, AL gave her 73% of our assets, most of which I had when we married. Ordered me to pay her $45K a year……my retirement being about $65K before taxes. And to add insult to injury requred me to take out a $300,000 life insurance policy for her. Got any idea what that cost a 71 year old? Summary, I have to work until I die because I would have to live under the bridge if I quit work.

  5. Ken Albino says:

    I am recently divorced, am an airline pilot and have recently retired from the United States Air Force reserve. After a costly litigation that ended with a trial I was given a life sentence to pay a 46 year old woman, college educated with 2 professional licenses permananet alimony. I have a mandatory retirement at age 65 that will not turn off the alimony unless she remarries or I can convince a judge that I no longer have income. Since I gave her half of an airline pension and almost half of a military retirement with a combined worth over 500,000 you would think it would be easy. I just pray that the stautes changes to end this draconian sentence imposed on so many men! HELP I AM DROWNING!!

  6. Until the feminists publicly state that alimony is unfair and unnecessary (are you listening, NOW?) as a matter of public policy, I will assume that the feminist movement is more about privilege and superiority than equality.

  7. John Fromularo says:

    I could not agree more with the article. In Florida, you are going to pay permanent alimony. My ex-wife had a military pension, Ivy League education, worked 12 out of 19 years of our marriage, and was awarded permanent alimony. At the age of 52, I would think the judge would find someone like that able to rehabilitate herself and award temporary relief of a few years alimony. If they cannot be rehabilitated, then they should be on some type of government disability because of their dramatic inability to learn or get a job.

    Unfortunately, like other men in the state of Florida, I will never be able to quit work/retire; re-marry, without always paying my ex-wife first. Although we are legally divorced, I am tied to her for as long as she is alive and she is my first financial priority or I risk going to jail. That is a broken system and needs to be changed.

  8. I am a recently laid off Space Center worker, where I dedicated 25 years to the Space Shuttle program. I have vigorously been looking for another job, but there are not too many jobs out there handling rocket propellants. For the past 10 years my former wife has been aware that this day was soon at hand. Instead of preparing herself to work by finishing her degree, she has simply retained her attorney to attempt to take everything else from me that she did not get during the original divorce in 2007, even including my unemployment check. Permanent alimony is nothing but privately funded welfare. I will fight them in court, pro se because I cannot afford an attorney, but will probably lose. It cost me over $60,000 in attorney fees the first go around. I have seen firsthand what goes on in Florida’s family court. My judge proudly told me during the divorce hearing that he was not going to follow the Florida statutes.
    Rehabilitative alimony and child support are good and necessary. The former partner needs a chance to get on their feet and move on. However, the judiciary is abusing their power and has turned this into a divorce industry in Florida, very similar to ambulance chasers. Guess who the big winners are? Attorneys, that’s who. The biggest difference is that ambulance chasers steal from all of us (by means of higher premiums) while the divorce industry seizes both your current and future personal property and assets. Permanent alimony awards are phony, in almost all cases unnecessary, allow attorneys to bill (steal) considerable more hours, turns the recipient into a scam artist, and breeds hate with your former mate.
    I hope that our legislators can reign in these out of control Florida Judges and attorneys, but I think the Florida Bar is simply too powerful and happy with their influx of money.

  9. Steve Hoye says:

    Liz, the picture you have chosen for this article speaks a thousand words!
    Thanx for what you do.

  10. I’m in it for $900 per month, I’m a firefighter with literally no hope for retirement because she gets some of that too. I guess I’ll be going to jail someday. Works for me. At least I’ll get three squares and some rest time before I die. Judges don’t care about people in Florida. They all suck. I’d piss on their graves if I could get away with it.

  11. Thank you so much for this article. My husband and I pay his ex 750.00 every month and we will for the rest of her life. She will never remarry. Why would she give up all that free money? She intentionally works part time, if at all, because she is a parasite who only wants to live in a drug induced happy land while we are forced by law to pay for it. The laws have got to be changed and they must be retroactive because no one I know can even afford to file for a modification. Anyway, the judges in Florida figure if you have money for that, then you have money to pay alimony. It’s for LIFE!!!!!! I know how an innocent person sitting on death row must feel. We must go to a three year maximum regardless of how long the marriage was. Divorce should mean divorce….not a lifetime of slavery for one person.

  12. Great article and so true (Yes it happened to me and cost me a bundle)and atrocious that this can happen in a modern day so-called democracy. Tyranny like this cannot be allowed to continue so it’s great that you are shedding light on it. Power to the people as we used to say;-)

  13. I had no idea permanent alimony was still available in any state! That seems so archaic. I’m opposed to the concept of alimony in general (in California I think it’s called spousal support) even for a “transitional” period unless it can be shown that a gross injustice would result. If the other spouse has a job then they should work, even if they make less than their ex. No one owes you a free ride in life, not even a former spouse.

    But I am kind of a radical in that I think marriage should be abolished as a government sponsored institution, and replaced with a contractual system based on domestic partnership agreements.

  14. It can be done. We changed the law in Massachusetts. It is just waiting for signature from the Governor.


    It makes a whole bunch of sensible reforms:

    1. Alimony is time limited to 50-80% of the length of the marriage.
    2. Second Wife’s (Husband’s) Income and Assets Excluded
    3. Co-Habitation Suspends, Reduces, or Terminates Alimony
    4. Alimony Ends with the Remarriage of the Alimony Recipient
    5. Alimony ends with the retirement of the payor.

    They key is to get the press involved. Let people see the terrible stories and how unfair it is. In MA we compiled a series of ‘horror stories’:


    This really helped change public opinion.

  15. Callahan Pope McDonough says:

    It is really sad that Alimony was meant to compensate for a gross inequity many years ago, i.e. women left without financial means after devoting their lives to raising children and managing domestic affairs for the family, and is now used to support women to live in a lifestyle they are accustomed to, even after they are co-habitating. No one should have to pay alimony for life, yes, definitely, assets should be split and transitional income should be allotted to the person whose income was/is lower, 3-6yrs perhaps transitional income. And of course, child support until out of College. BUT, Not a lifetime of Alimony. This is a wrongful use of our justice system. It is inhumane and damaging to both parties in my view and their children, young or grown. I am really sorry that the men who served us in our Space Programs are now left to be un-employed and open to losing everything because of these laws. Most places in the country no longer apply permanent alimony, why, Florida? It needs to end, now.

  16. Hector Torres says:

    Thanks to the Good Men Project and to the writer for exposing the truth about alimony in Florida. Divorce and after-divorce life should not have to be about “boys vs girls”. But unfortunately, the Family Section of the Florida Bar wants it to be a war because it is generates millions in attorneys fees. And that’s why the Florida Bar has opposed adequate alimony reform in the past. The Florida Bar does NOT CARE about families or what is JUST; The Bar cares more about how much money they can get their attorneys to pocket. With Permanent Alimony Reform, the divorce never really ends. It is an ongoing battle in Court. every time there is a change in circumstance, one spouse files papers in court to modify and it ends up costing both sides thousands of dollars; this is money that could have gone instead to the kids’ college education. I know all this to be fact because I myself am a victim of permanent alimony!

  17. Permanent Alimony is Financial Slavery…pure and simple. There are only two reasons why an X wife should recieve an order of “Long Term” Alimony. 1-if there is a permanent disability that would prevent her from ever finding work or receiving income from other sources; and 2- If the marriage was so long-term that she simply doesn’t have any skills and is simply aged out of the job market. And even then, there are ways to get gov’t assistance that doesn’t enslave her former husband for a lifetime. Florida Judges and Attorneys have the biggest scam going to create chaos and thereby create more business for themselves under the pretext of it being the ‘law.” The ‘law’ must change, and the politicians who allow for this to remain in place simply because the Florida Bar pays for their campaigns and other political agenda’s, are not working for the benefit of the people who elect them, but instead, for their own selfish self-interest. THE LAW MUST CHANGE!!!!! http://www.floridaalimonyreform.com

  18. It would seem that alimony is one of the things that has not changed in this era where women are taking a larger place in the work force and leaving behind the tradatitional expectation of being a stay at home mom. Frankly I like the fact that things have changed for women as much as they have (no I didn’t say it was perfect but I dare you to say things haven’t changed in the last 30 years or so) but it seems that when it comes to things like alimony (and custody, and child support, etc….) its still a case of people want to have their cake and eat it too. And with the way the economy has been going lately its pretty offensive and sad that adjustments due to economic hardships are so hard to get (because if they were still married its not like she could go to court and have him ordered to share a set significant portion of a nonexistent income).

    I’ve read stories where a couple would be married for barely 5 years with no kids but the exhusband would still be paying the wife alimony for longer than the marriage lasted with absolutely no proof that she is unable to support herself. You can hardly demand equality while still demanding to keep the things that were attempts at balancing out the previous inequalities. With the exception of outstanding circumstances (like said ex-spouse is unable to work for some reason) I don’t see why alimony should be permanent or even run past a few years at the very most.

    (On a side note here’s one thing I find odd about alimony. When two people get into a marriage the two people are providing for each other in different ways. How can you determine that once a divorce happens that one person should still be held responsible for what they were providing but the other person is free to move on with no other obligations or attachments. Same thing with child support. The primary caregiver is still given the court enforced benefit of financial support from the other spouse but that other spouse MIGHT get the court ordered benefit of time with the children in question.)

  19. Permanent alimony is a disgrace and epitomizes a broken family law system. Once you marry the law considers the married couple as one entity, permanently responsible for each other. But think about the opportunities for abuse that such a system enables. Whether because of mental illness, personality disorder, a get-even attitude brought on by advancing age, or just plain nastiness, one person can abuse and wreak havoc on the other; aided and encouraged by the LAW. Today, most families consist of two working people. Often, the two are professionals. If one partner decides over the course of the marriage to sit back despite their professional credentials and let the other pull the weight of the family, that other person will become trapped by the very virtues that society values. The hardworking efforts of the earner/provider spouse will be deemed a permanent responsibility after divorce, regardless of the details that precipitated the divorce. Said another way, the responsible party to the marriage will be penalized for having been responsible. Of course, the law absolves itself of any complicity by stating that alimony is not intended to be a penalty to the paying spouse, and not a reward to the recipient, it is intended to allow both parties to live in the lifestyle to which they had grown accustomed during the marriage.
    Apparently, being a deadbeat in the context of a marriage is deemed an acceptable lifestyle choice by the LAW. Despite the LAWS stated intention, shelling out $100 each and every day (or whatever the amount, $100 is my burden) would be to any reasonable person, a penalty.
    So a word of caution to all of the young people reading this comment who may be considering marriage, beware… if your spouse begins economically abusing you after 10 years of marriage, there will be no escape for you. The abuse will continue permanently, under penalty of the LAW. All of what you were taught in high school civics class about being an honest and responsible member of society, will come back to ruin your life. There is no other area of society, in Florida, New Jersey, or most of these fair United States, where the law encourages such misbehavior and abuse.

  20. Permanent alimony is archaic. In this day and age every adult should at some point in time be responsible for their own financial well being. Rehabilitative or transitional alimony is fine, but permanent alimony needs to end. Also, modifications, especially in the cases when there are mass layoffs in an area, should NOT be as difficult to obtain as the Space Shuttle employees are finding it to be. Judges need to be more realistic and less paternal.

  21. I just had to go back to court as I was laid off in 2008 and still have not found a job and have determined that there are no jobs in my six figure salary range. I have a $3,000 per mo permanent alimony award with no resources to pay for it…what happens? Contempt Motion.

    Had to hire a kick-ass lawyer and borrow 10K to pay the firm and they cut me a deal (if you call it that) of a reduction to $2,000 a mo. The firm told me that the permanent alimony will NEVER go to zero or go away unless ex-wife remarries or dies. The other only HOPE is that the law gets changed to reflect those that have payed for 5 years or more to be treated as time served (we are in bondage), and then the ex party would need to support themselves.

    I was in a 14 yr marriage with no kids and got this crappy award because I was making more money than ex-wife…we that is gone now but the courts do not give a crap! Pay or we will seize your 401K and /or throw you in jail. What a fu**ed up system.

    The changes to the FL Alimony Statute I am told is that if I got divorced today with a 14 yr marriage I would only have to pay alimony for 1/2 of the amount of years I was married or 7 years. Ok then grandfather all of us in that were pre-change on this law. What gives FL????

    • Follow my Twitter feed:

    • Crazy story Dale absolutely ridiculous, did u try the one time payoff option through mediation? Thats what I did, took the money out of the IRA and paid her and the atty. off and done with it. I know it’s a big check and painful but better in the long run to smell the free air once again after many years of virtual slavery just paying and paying. Good luck man.

      • My husband tried for that PJ but his ex sat stubbornly in the mediation room, refusing to even speak, while her attorney said “she won’t settle for anything less than lifetime alimony because that what the law says she deserves”…..strange how SHE was the one who filed a no fault divorce but apparently the courts still see fit to punish someone financially for a lifetime.

  22. Wow, good work and thanks to Good Men Project. We at http://www.floridaalimonyreform.com applaud you. We should all join together, women and men are in the same boat now. Alimony awards in Florida (and elsewhere) are really unfair and a disgrace. We can work together to make a change… It is the American way after all. (Spoken as a woman trapped in an alimony scenario after leaving a long term mentally abusive marriage)
    Together we can make change, look at Massachusetts!!! We need to all band together and make our voices heard.

  23. With over 50% of marriages ending in divorce, why is it still so legal intensive? When you’ve been laid off it should be a simple process of showing your current income. Reviewing Income Tax Returns annually by an unbiased third party must be too simple a solution. Take the emotion out and look at the numbers.
    The Space Shuttle workers spent years dedicated to America’s Space Program. Now, we not only throw them away, but for alimony payers, we throw them to the wolves. Family Law Attorneys (Divorce/Child Support/Alimony) find themselves trapped as well in a maze of legal maneuverings, even if they are trying to streamline the process. Our Divorce/Alimony System in Florida needs updating to today’s world.
    Please visit http://www.FloridaAlimonyReform.com to help end the suffering for America’s divorced workers.

  24. Huge thanks to the Good Men Project for helping spread the word about Florida’s alimony problems. Please feel free to email me for more information, or for a copy of my original op-ed, or go directly to Florida Alimony Reform (http://www.floridaalimonyreform.com) to find out more about the law and how these folks are trying to bring it into the 21st century. My email: info@elizabethbenedict.com.

    • Thank you Elizabeth Benedict for your help in Alimony reform for Florida (mostly men) who are in bondage for eternity to their ex spouses for lifetime alimony. It is cruel and spiritually kills men who must live their remaining lives under stress because they can never be free again due to lifetime alimony. When will judges realize what they have done to the lives of people in Florida who must pay until they die to an ex who happily lives enjoying lifetime alimony.

      Thank you also Susan who has organized and put years of work into helping others who are in a similar situation. She is a saint and I thank her for alll she has done.

      We need reform. Why cant a man retire when he is 73 years of age? Because if he does a judge in Florida will not allow it. His ex will take him to court and take his social security check and not care if he has anything left to live on. That is the situation here in Florida. We need reform now.

      Jean Teresky

      • Dear Elizabeth:
        Also, I forgot to thank the Good Men s project for allowing this information to be broadcast to all people who are not aware of what is happening in Florida with alimony. More people need to become aware of “LIFETIME ALIMONY” laws in Florida. I have spoken to people who are amazed that here in Florida lifetime alinony is in effect and men kill themselves because their lives are ruined by lifetime alimony with no recourse no matter what they do. They must die to end lifetime alimony and that is the truth.

    • I hope something can be done with this loop hole of stealing,
      My wife left me for another man and they file for divorce on me. I was completely caught off guard and had no idea how corrupt the legal system is. She refused marriage counseling and wanted a new life with a man that can not even support himself. Everything we ever had was because of me. She never paid a bill or paid anything with her pay check as she only spent on herself. She never did anything for our daughter;(found out after the separation) except call her names & abuse her.
      She walk out of mediation as her lawyer could drag it out.

      Judge split everything 50/50, half my retirement, lump sum alimony and permanent alimony for life. She lied in court and on her financial affidavits. File a police report that her 1st Attorney assaulted her after she collected money from me on an agreement that my Attorney had made that I would not not have to pay alimony (he talked me into it). Her 2nd Attorney lied in court and communicated with the Judge without my knowledge. Her 3rd Attorney lied in court. Now I find out that perjury is not against the law in family court. Her fiancee never testified in court as he was subpena to be there, but he ignored the Judges order. She testified that she lived alone ever though there was proof they were still together.
      I had no say about anything in my divorce that she filed.
      I took her back to court with the new law on cohabitation, she testified to the Judge that she lied at the final and she has always been with him (going on 15 years). Because of her it ended in a mistrial.
      With the rotation in Judges, the 5th Judge with the case showed a lot of favoritism to her lawyer as they talked privately and very noticeable with his decisions. He ruled in my favor on cohabitation, but stated that she still needed the alimony & her boy friend was not able to support her.
      If I had known about divorce law when I was young I would never have gotten married. I got married in another state in a church and never had to sign anything, but said the vows that don’t mean anything.
      I did not sign my divorce as the Judge does that.
      Alimony is a scam and lawyers don’t want a change since this is most of the litigation that costs the working person as there are no guidelines that a judge must follow. since it is at his discretion. I had to pay all attorneys fee’s since I work and force to liquidate assets and gets loans.
      This is actually a short summary as there is a lot of criminal activity that took place with her, her boyfriend, his sons and her friends which is done in a criminal court. Criminal court can have a jury, but family court never does and this is a big reason why alimony is not mentioned much or understood by most citizens. I do have transcripts.


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