The Tampa Bay Times is reporting that Florida Governor Rick Scott has vetoed SB 668, a bill that was intended to make large-scale changes to the state’s alimony and child custody laws.
For the first time, the bill was set to create alimony guidelines that calculated a presumptive range for the amount and length of spousal support. Further, the bill would have directed judges, when establishing custody schedules, to start out with the premise that each parent should have approximately an equal amount of time with children.
It was that second point that seemed to be the sticking point for Governor Scott.
The Tampa Bay Times article quotes Governor Scott on his reasons for vetoing the bill:
“As a husband, father and grandfather, I understand the importance of family and the sensitivity and passion that comes with the subject of family law,” Scott said in a veto message. “Family law issues are very personal and nearly every family comes to the court with different circumstances and needs.”
Scott continued: “Current law directs a judge to consider the needs and interests of the children first when determining a parenting plan and time-sharing schedule. This bill has the potential to up-end that policy in favor of putting the wants of a parent before the child’s best interest by creating a premise of equal time-sharing. Our judges must consider each family’s unique situation and abilities and put the best interests of the child above all else.”
Current custody laws have no presumption in favor of any particular schedule, whether 50/50 time-sharing or otherwise. Instead, section 61.13 of the Florida Statutes instructs that a parenting plan should be based on the best interests of the child, and factors to consider when determining best interest include:
-The ability of each parent to facilitate a close relationship between the child and the other parent;
-The demonstrated capacity of each parent to act in the best interests of the child as opposed to the desires of that parent;
-The ability of each parent to inform the other parent of the activities of and issues concerning the child; and
-The demonstrated capacity of each parent to be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.
Current alimony laws (Florida Statutes section 61.08) first require an analysis of whether one party has a need for support and the other has the ability to pay. If there is a need and an ability, the laws then have presumptions of whether short term, medium term, or long term alimony is appropriate based on the length of the marriage and other factors. However, there is no formula to help courts and families calculate an alimony amount, but instead factors to consider such as the standard of living during the marriage and the age and health of each party.
If you have questions on the impact of the veto on your family law case or would like to speak with an attorney regarding alimony or parenting issues, schedule a consultation with Family Diplomacy: A Collaborative Law Firm at (813) 443-0615 or CLICK HERE to fill out our contact form.