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Are major changes coming to Florida's alimony, child custody laws?

Legal circles throughout the state of Florida are currently abuzz over a significant piece of legislation recently sent to the desk of Governor Rick Scott that, if signed into law, would introduce some truly major changes in the area of divorce as we currently know it.

Indeed, the legislation, which would fundamentally alter how courts here in the Sunshine State award both alimony and child custody, is already generating significant controversy.

What does the legislation call for in regard to child custody?

The legislation calls for Florida to essentially become a shared-parenting state, such that judges would be required to start with the "premise" that children should divide their time equally with both parents. They could, however, adjust this premise after considering 15 different factors, such as the parents' health, history of domestic violence, etc.

What does the legislation call for in regard to alimony?

The legislation calls for the elimination of permanent alimony. Furthermore, it calls for much of the discretion currently enjoyed by judges in making alimony determinations to be jettisoned in favor of formulas based on the income disparities of the divorcing spouses and the length of the marriage.

Finally, it calls for alimony agreements to be renegotiated in the event the recipient spouse's income increases by 10 percent.  

What issues do people have with these proposed changes?

Regarding the shared parenting provision, critics argue that it could create very real logistical concerns for parents, making life considerably more difficult. More significantly, they argue that it puts the best interests of parents ahead of their children.

As for the elimination of permanent alimony, critics argue that it would be unduly punitive toward women, particularly those who have sacrificed their careers to raise their children.

Will Governor Scott sign it?

It remains uncertain as to whether Governor Scott will sign the legislation. Indeed, he vetoed a similar bill just two years ago. However, that measure contained language indicating that alimony and child custody arrangements could be modified retroactively, and the new bill does not allow this in relation to child custody. Given the fact that the language on alimony isn't quite this clear, some experts are wondering if it will happen in this session.

Stay tuned for updates …

If you have questions relating to divorce or alimony, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who can provide answers and guide you through the entire process. 

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