Florida Governor Rick Scott, on April 15, 2016, vetoed an alimony and child custody bill, SB 668, which had been approved by both the state House and the state Senate by comfortable margins. It is the second time in three years that Governor Scott has vetoed alimony reform. The main objection to the legislation, according to Governor Scott, was the presumption in the time-sharing provision of the bill that judges begin with equal time-sharing in child custody cases as the norm. Governor Scott, and many other Floridians, objected that the presumption placed the concerns of the parents ahead of the best interests of the child.
The Alimony Legislation
Originally, there were two separate bills – one for alimony and a second for time-sharing. During the legislation process, the bills were joined into one.
The alimony law changes, as Boca Raton divorce attorneys know, would have disallowed permanent alimony and created a formula for calculating alimony based on the income of the spouses and the length of time they were married. Judges would have been allowed to move away from the formula in some cases.
Alimony is a financial award of money that one spouse pays to the other spouse. There are several different types of alimony awards.
- Temporary alimony. Alimony can be short-term payments to a spouse until the final decree of divorce is entered.
- Rehabilitative alimony. This type of alimony recognizes that one spouse often supports the career of the other spouse during the marriage. Rehabilitative alimony enables the supporting spouse the ability to be trained or educated so that she/he can earn a living.
- Bridge-the-gap alimony. This type of alimony helps one spouse transition to the life of a single person.
- Durational alimony. Durational alimony provides one spouse financial assistance for a definite period of time, which means there is a definite time when the alimony ends. Durational alimony cannot be longer than the length of the marriage.
- Permanent alimony. This kind of alimony is for long-term marriages. If a dependent spouse cannot support herself/himself, then a permanent alimony award may be granted. A key factor in the amount of permanent alimony payments is the standard of living of the couple during the marriage.
Factors in deciding the length and amount of alimony include the length of the marriage and the spouses’ respective earning capacities.
The Time-Sharing Legislation
Since 2008, Florida does not separate custody from visitation. It does not use legal terms such as physical custody, legal custody, or joint custody. Instead, the parents create a parenting plan for their children. If the parents cannot agree, the family court imposes a plan on them. The parenting plan details the responsibilities of each parent and the exact time each child will live with each parent.
Time-sharing plans, as a Boca Raton divorce lawyer can explain, must consider the school year, summer, holidays, vacations, and other times. The educational and social needs of each child must also be considered. To help facilitate agreements, Florida uses parenting coordinators to guide the parents toward an agreement.
The legislation that was vetoed would have required that time-sharing begin with a 50/50 division of time. Proponents argued that this equal division prevented one parent from being favored over another parent. Opponents argued that equal divisions would fail to give the children the consistency and flexibility they need to grow and mature. Opponents were concerned that the constant back and forth between parents would be detrimental to the interests of the child.
Governor Scott’s Objections
Governor Scott cited two personal reasons for vetoing the legislation: his own divorce and the divorce of one of his children. Many organizations, such as the Family Law section of the Florida Bar, the National Organization for Women, the League of Women Voters, and some conservative organizations opposed the time-sharing presumption. Other groups, according to Boca Raton divorce attorneys, such as Family Law Reform, fought for the time-sharing presumption.
It is not clear what future legislation will pass; the likelihood is that alimony and child time-sharing will be treated separately rather being combined into one bill.
Speak with a Strong Boca Raton Alimony Attorney Today
Spouses need to know their rights and obligations. Alimony can be a great financial benefit for spouses who sacrificed their career to help the other spouse – but only if the facts are detailed and a proper claim is made. Spouses who are being asked to pay alimony may have defenses to minimize alimony. Child time-sharing plans should do what is best for the child. An experienced Florida divorce lawyer can help get just results.