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Florida Senator Trying To Overhaul Alimony and Custody Laws…Again

State Senator Tom Lee is once again (and for the third time) trying to change the state laws governing alimony and child custody. On September 10, he filed SB 250 for consideration in 2016. This bill would alter certain aspects of divorce proceedings in state courts, specifically:

Making It More Difficult To Receive Spousal Support

The bill would require courts to make specified findings prior to ruling on a request for alimony and change the calculations for support amounts to make it more difficult to obtain. For example, if a spouse is unemployed or underemployed, it would require the court to look at what they could be making instead of what they are making. It would also force the court to exclude gains on retirement accounts in calculating alimony amounts.

Creating Default Best Interest of the Child

In considering child custody, the bill would also create a presumption that equal time-sharing by both parents is in the best interest of the child and take into account how frequently one parent might leave a child in the care of someone else. The legislation would revise the current list of factors that court must evaluate when determining whether equal time-sharing is overcome, and would even prohibit a determination of parental responsibility, a parenting plan, or a time-sharing schedule unless “certain determinations are [first] made.”

Current Law

Currently, Florida courts look at level of need and consider the following factors in determining the amount of spousal support that will be awarded:

  • Standard of living during marriage;
  • Duration of marriage;
  • Each party’s financial resources;
  • Earning capacities and education levels;
  • Age and physical condition of each party;
  • Contribution to the marriage;
  • Child-related responsibilities;
  • Tax consequences of alimony awards;
  • Sources of income; and
  • Any other factor necessary to do justice.

The courts do not automatically favor the mother or the father when it comes to child custody. They do typically order shared parental responsibility unless they determine that it would be harmful to the child. It is Florida’s public policy that children have frequent and continual contact with both parents, however, the court does not start out with this presumption, but rather what is in the best interest of the child.

History of Bills

Governor Rick Scott ended up vetoing a similarly contentious measure in 2013 which would have retroactively reduced alimony payments, causing extremely unfair results. A similar measure introduced in 2015 died in the legislature.

Contact Us for Assistance

Whether you are seeking a divorce or spousal support, or simply need to create a parenting plan for your children, we can help you through the entire process. Please contact Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. to schedule a consultation. We represent clients in Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, and throughout Broward County.

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