Alimony reform in Florida is dead for at least one year after an April 15 veto of SB 668 by Governor Rick Scott. The veto represents the second time Scott has vetoed a bill that would have updated Florida’s alimony laws. While the most recent bill removed certain retroactivity provisions from the alimony reforms, which Scott cited as problematic in vetoing the previous bill, the governor again issued a veto, this time due to certain additional reforms addressing timesharing laws, which he said ran the risk of “putting the wants of a parent before the child’s best interest.”
Had it become law, the reform measure would have made several major changes in the way courts resolve divorce and child custody cases. The new law would have ended permanent alimony and would have set up alimony calculation guidelines as well. These guidelines would have assessed the amount and duration of alimony based upon each spouse’s income and the length of the marriage. The most recent bill also would have created a presumption in favor of alimony for all marriages except those lasting two years or less.
The bill passed the Republican-controlled Legislature with relative ease, by a margin of 74-38 in the House and 24-14 in the Senate. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the governor’s office received more than 11,000 phone calls and emails, with supporters outpacing opponents by a 4-to-1 rate.
Some of the most outspoken opponents of the bill were on the progressive side of the political spectrum, including current and former Democratic candidates for office as well as the National Organization for Women. NOW lobbyist Barbara Devane praised the veto, stating that the governor “says he’s a pro-family governor, and this bill was anti-family.” Meanwhile, conservative sources like the online magazine The Federalist accused the governor of caving to pressure from feminist groups like NOW and missing a major opportunity. The magazine opined that scientific research has proven the benefits of a child’s having both parents actively involved in her life, but systems like Florida’s current system perpetuate the major societal problem of fatherlessness through court decisions that minimize a father’s time and involvement in his child’s life following a divorce. Other supporters of reform point out that the existing laws were enacted in the 1950s and no longer effectively address the realities of families, since society has evolved in the last half-century-plus.
The issue of a legal presumption in favor of equal time is not without its own challenges, such as logistical concerns, according to some who’ve handled these issues firsthand. Robert Doyel, a retired judge from Polk County, explained to The Times that “a lot of things interfere with getting kids back and forth. Who’s going to get the child to the bus stop? There are all kinds of practical implications that the theoretical idea of 50-50 custody just doesn’t take into account.”
The issue of alimony reform is likely not permanently dead, according to legislators who led the charge for reform. Ritch Workman, who sponsored the House version of the bill and is running for a Senate seat, told The Times that he would bring the issue back if voters send him back to Tallahassee, but he would employ a different strategy next time. That new strategy would involve advancing the issues of alimony and child custody/timesharing in separate reform bills.
Whether Florida continues to maintain its current laws or eventually embraces reform when it comes to alimony, parenting plans, and timesharing, having knowledgeable and capable counsel on your side will always be a key component of ensuring that you maximize your ability, both personally and financially, to be an active and vital part of your children’s lives. The hardworking South Florida alimony attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. understand the law, the court processes, and what’s needed to help you pursue the best possible resolution under the law. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.
More blog posts:
Alimony Reform Supporters Use Documentary Film to Bolster Their Case, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Feb. 5, 2014
Group Seeks to Reform Permanent Alimony Laws in the State of Florida, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Nov. 16, 2012