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Alimony Reform and Co-Parenting Issues

Did you know that Florida lawmakers have introduced a new issue into the bill aimed at alimony reform? And, according to a recent article in the Orlando Sentinel, many legislators aren’t happy about it. In short, Senator Tom Lee asked Senator Kelli Stargel, who sponsored the alimony reform measure, to include a provision about a presumption of 50-50 time-sharing for custody decisions. Analysts predict that adding this provision to the bill that would end permanent alimony—which appeared to have support from both sides—will result in the inability to pass the measure.

Promises of the Alimony Reform

In Florida, permanent alimony still exists. In other words, as long as you’ve been married for 17 years, you could end up paying alimony for the rest of your life. Given the complications that arise from permanent alimony—not to mention the frustrations of many payor spouses—Florida lawmakers have been working on a reform measure to end permanent payments. A couple of years ago, a bill arose that would have ended permanent alimony, but it included a retroactive provision that could have left payee spouses in a difficult situation. As such, the governor vetoed it.

After a number of years, however, it looked as though Florida lawmakers had come to an agreement to end permanent alimony. But when the bill reached the Florida Senate, the seemingly unlikely issue of time-sharing arose. According to commentators, the shifted focus to matters of co-parenting could end up hurting the success of the bill.

Equal Parenting and Time-Sharing

Given that Senator Tom Lee has asked for a co-parenting provision to be included in the bill, Florida lawmakers will now have to address, in addition to the question of permanent alimony, whether judges should begin from a presumption of 50-50 time-sharing. In other words, Lee wants courts to begin from the idea that parents should precisely equally share time with their kids. Judges still would begin by addressing what’s in the best interests of the children, and they would then “be guided by 20 specific considerations, such as distance to school or a history of domestic violence.”

While it might sound like a good idea to assume that parents should equally share physical custody of their kids, a number of advocates argue that such an assumption doesn’t properly take into account the nuances of each family situation. According to Abigail Beebe, a representative of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar, “it’s bad policy to start from a 50-50 time-share because it would make the better parent have to prove the negative.”

On the flip side, however, those in favor of equal time-sharing from the start argue that “if moms and dads equally love their kids, it seems appropriate that state policy support shared-parenting time, realizing there will always be exceptions.” Unlike the general agreement among legislators concerning permanent alimony, however, this provision is expected to create disagreement.

When you decide to file for divorce, you’ll need to deal with numerous issues, from spousal support to child custody. Contact the Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood Law Offices of Steven A. Mason, P.A. for legal advice at 954-963-5900 or leave a message online.

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