Bill Seeking Changes to Florida’s Alimony Rules Dies in Senate
A bill that proposed an overhaul of Florida’s alimony laws failed to become law this session after the Florida Senate refused to consider the bill. The bill had already passed the Florida House of Representatives by a vote of 93-22.
Under the proposed changes, alimony would have been based on a formula that took into account the length of the marriage and the amount of money both spouses earned. It created a two-tiered system of short and long-term marriages, with 20 years being the cut-off, as opposed to the current three-tiered system. The formula for calculating alimony differed depending on whether the marriage was greater or less than 20 years.
Passage of the bill through the Senate stalled based not due to disagreement on the alimony overhaul, but over a provision regarding time-sharing in child custody cases. The bill amends current law regarding time-sharing to include a provision making it public policy that a “child’s interests are ordinarily best served by the equal and active involvement of both parents in the child’s life.” Yet the amendment further stated that there was no presumption in favor of either parent, or in favor of a particular time-sharing plan, and that courts could, after an evaluation of all factors affecting the child’s welfare, consider any plan from sole exclusive time-sharing with one parent to equal time-sharing with both parents.
But with the exception of putting forth “equal and active involvement of both parents” as public policy, the amendment did nothing to significantly alter how courts make a custody determination now. The court is required to evaluate all relevant factors governing the child’s welfare before ordering any time-sharing plan, whether it was proposed by the parties or created by the court in the event of a dispute.
It appears to be the failure to significantly alter the time-sharing section that led to the failure of the bill to pass through the Senate. Opponents of that portion of the bill want the amendment to include a presumption in favor of equal time-sharing, with the court only being allowed to deviate from that division if is it not in the child’s best interests. A presumption in favor of equal time-sharing means that the parent requesting an unequal time-sharing plan would have the burden of proving such a plan was not in the child’s best interests.
It is unclear at this point if the bill will be amended and resubmitted for consideration in the House during the next legislative session.
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