Florida governor vetoes alimony bill because of child-sharing provision

After much public outcry, the governor has vetoed a second alimony reform bill.

In dramatic fashion, the Florida legislature's second attempt to reform its alimony laws was vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott. On April 15, 2016, the governor issued a veto letter in which he explained that he was not signing the most recent alimony reform bill to hit his desk because of his concern over a parental time-sharing provision that was included in the bill.

In 2013, he vetoed a similar bill because it would have had retroactive application to divorces already adjudicated.

At the time of our January 2016 article about the possibility of alimony reform in Florida, three bills were being considered by the state legislature. Each of them were major pieces of legislation with some variation, but they each would have put an end to permanent alimony and established guidelines to calculate alimony award size and duration.

The bill that rose to the top and ended up on Gov. Scott's desk was Senate Bill 668, which was co-sponsored by Senators Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, and Tom Lee, R-Brandon, and Representatives Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland, and Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne.

The main reason for the most recent veto did not concern the spousal support provisions; rather, the governor was concerned about a child custody provision that would have created a "premise" in every divorce with minor children that a 50-50 time-sharing arrangement would be in the children's best interest. The controversial provision had been championed mainly by Sen. Lee.

After hearing passionate opinions on both sides, Gov. Scott wrote that "the needs of the child must come before all others" and that the bill's premise of equal timesharing could put the "wants of a parent before the child's best interest." Rather, he said that state judges in deciding matters of child custody and time sharing must be able to "consider each family's unique situation and abilities and put the best interests of the child above all else."

It would seem that the matter of alimony reform will likely continue to be a hot topic in the Sunshine State.

With offices in Palm Beach Gardens, Wellington and West Palm Beach, attorney Matthew Lane of Matthew Lane & Associates, P.A., represents clients in many areas of family law, including alimony and other divorce issues.

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