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Florida Looking to Make Changes to Divorce Laws

Florida Looking to Make Changes to Divorce Laws

 

This is not happening in Texas, but Florida is looking to end permanent alimony and utilize a plan of equal sharing when it comes to child custody from the outset.  This is meaningful because it directly affects post-divorce payments.

Ending permanent alimony is self-explanatory.  There will be no more infinite payments of support after divorce.  Texas frowns on the post-divorce payments.  Alimony here is temporary and not easy to achieve.  Texas looks into the circumstances of the parties and speculates on prospects after the divorce.

The starting point of custody being equal time is more surprising, but not all too uncommon these days.  But for many it is uncommon and Florida looks to make an attempt, or at least it seen that way, to minimize child support.  I have spoken to judges in Texas who feel that split time does not mean there isn’t child support.  They feel that post-divorce home environments should be on par with each other and that is what is in the best interest of the child.  I have felt that the guidelines of Texas child support aren’t flexible enough.  This may lead to a rethinking of those laws as well.  I believe that child support should be paid.  Don’t get me wrong.  But, when have so many behind in payments, who, as a result, get jailed or lose a drivers license that could lead to them losing their job, we aren’t doing anyone any favors.  Article is posted below.

 

Divorce bill foes rally at Capitol urging Scott to veto it again

TALLAHASSEE — Advocates and opponents of a measure to overhaul Florida’s divorce laws are marshalling their resources at the Capitol today to sway Gov. Rick Scott to their side.

The bill, whose main two authors were Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland and Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, would end permanent alimony and require courts to start with the premise that parents should have equal time-sharing duties.

Scott has until April 19 to take action.

Those who favor the bill say it would lift onerous obligations on payers of alimony and child support and provide a fairer framework for child custody negotiations.

Opponents, including social workers and women’s groups, say those changes would harm families.

“The alimony part has a great impact on women financially, and women who still have children at home are affected also,” said Barbara DeVane, lobbyist for Florida National Organization for Women. “The 50-50 time share premise is very bad for children. Men would use it as leverage in alimony and child support negotiations.”

A coalition of women’s groups will meet at 11 a.m. in the Capitol Rotunda to urge Scott to veto the bill. The coalition includes Florida NOW, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Florida League of Women Voters, UniteWomen Florida, Florida Breast Feeding Coalition and the National Association of Social Workers.

An hour before these groups meet, representatives for Family Law Reform Inc. and their supporters will hold a rally in the Capitol plaza to urge passage of the bill and counter what they call a spread of misinformation, said Chuck Reinertsen, treasurer with Family Law Reform.

“Once we realized they are spreading their information, we had to get the truth out there,” Reinertsen said.

Scott vetoed a previous attempt at reform in 2013 because it would have applied retroactively to divorce cases. DeVane said the new bill would allow modifications of existing orders but Reinertsen that is not the case.

“You cannot go back and modify under the new law unless there has been a substantial change in circumstance, like retirement,” Reinertsen said.

The group formed in 2011 to start lobbying for changes to the state’s divorce law, saying the way alimony, child support and child custody were determined is unfair. An income-producing spouse in a long-term marriage is forced to pay alimony for life, he said, regardless of who asked for the divorce.

Also, child custody hearings start with a presumption that the child belongs with the custodial parent. “There is no consideration for how much time is best with the children for each parent,” Reinertsen said. “We want to do what’s best for the children.”

The proposed changes to time-sharing are not in the best interest of the children, said Maria Gonzalez, who chairs the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar.

Instead of being able to determine what is in the best interest in each individual case, judges will have to apply the same 50-50 presumption, Gonzalez said. If one or the other parent wants to challenge that presumption, they would have to bring evidence to show the other parent doesn’t deserve equal time with their child.

“The best interests of the child should always be primary consideration of the court,” Gonzalez said.

No change in the state’s divorce law should be done without a full economic impact study, said Pamela Goodman, president of the Florida League of Women Voters.

Goodman called the bill a “knee-jerk reaction” supported with little evidence, and said both sides of the debate have been emotional with very little factual evidence to support their case.

“Our concern is the impact this will have on women and children,” she said.