“This time is different,” said Tom Lee’s attorney, Michael Edenfield.
Calls to Amy Lee’s attorney were not returned.
Lee formerly served in the Senate, rising to be its president, before leaving in 2006.
His initial petition said the fact he no longer has those duties, with their year-round travel responsibilities, means he can spend more time with his children. He says in his court filings that it’s in their best interest.
While he returned to the Senate with last year’s election, he doesn’t have the time-consuming responsibilities of being its president, Edenfield said.
Further, Lee’s petition says his income has fallen sharply. That coupled with the fact that his children would be spending more time with him if his petition is granted, his child-support obligations should be lower.
The petition doesn’t specify how much time he wants with his children or the support payment he is seeking. A financial affidavit submitted last year states Lee’s gross income, primarily from his job as vice president of his family’s construction company in 2010, was $42,720.
While a financial disclosure report he filed with the state upon returning to the Senate lists his income for 2011 as $81,195, that’s far below a high of $733,758 as recently as 2004 during the housing boom.
Lee acknowledged that his life experiences, including his divorce, affect his work as a legislator. But he said his amendment to the alimony bill had more to do with the changing nature of American families than his own custody challenges.
“The 21st Century view of the family is that mother and fathers are equally equipped today to help manage the lives of their children,” he said.
Under current law, there is no presumption of which parent should have primary custody of children, though men’s groups have long contended that women are favored. Generally, divorce laws across the country have evolved to reflect the growing prevalence of two-income families and the changes in parental roles that has brought about.
The alimony legislation passed by legislators was pushed heavily by a group called Family Law Reform. The group had not sought Lee’s amendment, though it applauded it.
“We appreciate Sen. Lee having the confidence in us to add this important amendment to our bill, and we are delighted with his support of the entire bill,” said Alan Frisher, president of Family Law Reform.
Lee persuaded Rep. Ritch Workman to add the provision to the House version of the alimony bill, Workman said.
The bill passed in both chambers by large margins. Gov. Rick Scott has not indicated if he will sign it, but Workman said he was confident the governor would give his approval.
Tampa Bay Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.