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Gov. Scott vetoes reform to family law

If you have been following our blog, you are familiar with the legislative push to reform aspects of Florida's family law. SB 668 was designed to change alimony and child-sharing laws. Revision of alimony payouts would end permanent alimony upon the payer's retirement and recalculate alimony payments according to the length of the marriage. The new law would mandate that family court judges determine child-sharing based on the assumption that both parents receive equal time for child supervision.

As we have reported, the bill contained controversial elements. Both supporters and opponents were vocal in their opinions of SB 668. Here are the arguments presented by each side:

1. Supporters of the bill

Those in favor of the bill promoted the revision of the alimony payment guidelines, arguing that the guidelines were outdated and led to financial hardships. According Florida's Family Law Reform, the bill supports an elimination of permanent alimony and gives the family court more discretion in determining alimony payments for those married for a short period of time. SB 668 would also give more leverage to fathers seeking equal custody of their children.

2. Opponents of the bill

The bill's critics opposed the proposal due to the impact it would have on mother and child. According to the League of Women Voters of Florida, passage of legislation would have reduced the amount of alimony paid to spouses married for less than 25 years, the time requirement attached to equal sharing of income. Current statutes require income to be shared according to need and the ability to pay. Those divorced before reaching the 25-year milestone would have had their monthly payments revised. Women obtaining employment would have had their support payments reduced should their income increase by 10 percent. As a result, women argued that they were being penalized for seeking employment outside of the home.

Additionally, family advocates were concerned that equality in child supervision would set the needs of the parents above those of the child. Florida family courts typically use the standard of "the best interests of the child" to guide child custody agreements. Critics of SB 668 argued that passage of the new law would have a negative impact on the child's health in its mandating that the child move from one residence to another to satisfy equal time sharing.

Citing his concern that the best interests of the child would be overlooked in order to promote equal time-sharing, Gov. Scott vetoed SB 668 in April 2016. Supporters of the bill have promised to continue to fight for its passage, recognizing that the revision of the alimony payment structure should be separate from child-sharing laws.

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