There have recently been attempts to reform Florida’s alimony laws. The stated goal was to create uniformity and predictability in determining alimony. The unspoken purpose was to eliminate permanent alimony.
The latest alimony reform bill vetoed by Gov. Scott included ambiguous language about children spending “approximately equal amounts of time with each parent.”
Scott vetoed the bill because he thought it changed the standard for determining the amount of time that a child would spend with each parent and that it put the wants of the parents before the best interest of the child by creating a presumption in favor of equal timesharing.
I’m a past president of the Florida Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. We presented seminars on the equal timesharing presumption, but we could not find any mental health professionals in favor of it.
The Family Law Section of The Florida Bar opposed the latest bill because of the equal timesharing presumption language.
The current law does exactly what it should do — it directs a judge to allocate the time between the parents based upon the best interest of the child, not upon what the parents selfishly want.
Given the widespread opposition to an equal timesharing, it does not seem likely that such a change will be made to the law in the near future.
Scott has vetoed two alimony reform bills that were passed by the Legislature in the last few years. I anticipate that it will be presented again next year, but probably not with the equal timesharing presumption.
The vast majority of divorces are settled, including alimony issues.
While there is a benefit to having alimony guidelines, I’m not sure that amending the alimony statute is in the best interest of Florida’s families because it seems that it will cause as many problems as it will resolve.
Robert J. Merlin,