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Governor Scott Vetoes Changes to Alimony and Child Custody in Florida

On April 15th, Governor Rick Scott vetoed the controversial family law proposal that would have forced judges to use a specific formula in calculating alimony (entirely based on number of years of marriage and combined incomes), and would have eliminated permanent alimony entirely. Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the proposal was the last-minute amendment that would have required judges to default to the premise that children should split their time equally between all parents in child custody and parenting time disputes.

What was most controversial about the child custody aspect was the possibility that, in making this change, Florida’s policy of placing the best interest of the child first and foremost could be threatened. This was also the reason Scott cited in vetoing the bill, as well as the importance that “the needs of the child…come before all others” when judges determine parenting schedules.

Pros and Cons

Proponents of the bill remarked that it is unclear what changes to the current Florida family laws the governor would find acceptable, however, it is clear that their intentions, in moving forward, are to separate the alimony and child custody issues in terms of future legislation. While the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar supported the current legislation’s adjustments to alimony payments, it opposed the child-sharing portion of the bill. It cited to the importance of a judge being able to consider the uniqueness of every family as well as its needs and coming up with a good parenting plan for that family specifically.

Other organizations such as the National Organization for Women and the League of Women Voters of Florida opposed the bill in its entirety, including the changes to alimony, citing concerns for homemakers who may have a difficult time finding employment after caring for families for many years.

The Bests Interests of the Child

For now, the law stays as it has always been in Florida, where the court may consider a variety of factors in ordering parental responsibility, deciding to grant ultimate responsibility to one party, or dividing those responsibilities—including education, healthcare, and any other aspects—between the parties. The law prioritizes the best interest of the child again and again, and does not even allow for the modification of parental responsibility, a parenting plan, or time-sharing schedule unless there is a determination that the modification is in the best interests of the child.

In determining a child’s best interests, the court looks at many factors, including but not limited to:

  • The capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship and honor the schedule;
  • The division of parental responsibilities;
  • The capacity of each parent to put the child’s needs before theirs;
  • The desirability of maintaining continuity;
  • The geographic viability of the parenting plan;
  • The moral fitness of the parents;
  • The mental and physical health of the parents;
  • The home, school, and community for the child;
  • The reasonable preference of the child; and
  • Other factors.

Contact Us for Assistance

Whether you are seeking spousal support or assistance in setting up child custody parameters, we can help you through the entire process. Contact us at the office of Sandra Bonfiglio today to schedule a consultation—we represent mothers and fathers in Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, Broward County, and surrounding areas.

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