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Newly Introduced Family Law Reform Requires 50/50 Custody Splits, Other Changes

A new potential Florida law, called SB 250 or “Family Law Reform”, is poised to change the way parenting plans for divorced or separated families operate and are approved by Florida courts. If passed, the law would impose a legal presumption of 50/50 child-time splitting, meaning courts would begin the process of making and approving parenting plans with the base assumption of giving each parent 50% of the child’s time, changing this assumption only through litigation by one or both of the parents.

The law has already garnered significant opposition. The Florida Breastfeeding Coalition (made up of obstetricians, pediatricians, and other healthcare professionals) reportedly opposes the bill, as it would likely prevent infants from being exclusively breastfed up until the age of six months, the Coalition’s recommended practice. Based on studies reviewed by the Coalition, this practice helps to develop healthy cognitive functioning in children, increases child immunity to disease and infection, promotes clinically important mother-child attachment behaviors, and reduces the risk of postpartum depression. The Coalition also purportedly states that current Florida law seeks to balance these and other concerns in time-sharing parenting plans, and that a change to a mandatory presumption of a 50/50 split is unnecessary.

The Coalition has reportedly requested from Governor Rick Scott, state senators, and representatives that lawmakers give consideration to the potential risks of imposing 50/50 time-sharing. It also requests that Governor Scott form an independent task force to study the potential implications of this and other family law reforms in light of all risks and potential advantages.

While the 50/50 time-sharing presumption is perhaps the most drastic change proposed in the bill, the drafted legislation also includes several other new provisions affecting family and divorce law in Florida. The bill would also place further limits on alimony awards, and would require judges to consider whether a parent given time with his or her children would leave the child with a sitter as a factor in assigning custody and ordering parenting plans.

Family law reform in Florida has been near the forefront of state legislation since 2013, when Governor Rick Scott vetoed a bill outlawing permanent alimony as it would apply retroactively. This newest bill was introduced by state Senator Tom Lee, and is the Senator’s third time supporting or introducing a bill to reform family law in Florida. If this bill passes through the legislator and is signed by the governor, Florida would be the first state in the United States to mandate a presumption of 50/50 time-sharing, and would align with Australian family law, which also mandates a time-sharing presumption.

Let Our Attorneys Help You

If you are pursuing a divorce or separation, it is important to understand that the landscape of Florida family law is continuously changing. That is one reason why the assistance of a qualified family law attorney can be the best way to protect your rights and interests in divorces, separations, or child custody disputes. At Schwartz | White, experienced Boca Raton family law attorneys are standing by and ready to answer your questions. Call 561-391-9943 today.

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