Florida lawmakers’ inability to come to terms over Medicaid expansion saw this year’s legislative session come to a screeching halt three days early leaving behind a number of bills that have been more or less scattered to the wind.
Among them was a bill designed to reform Florida’s antiquated alimony system.
Although not a fatal blow to those who favor reform, it does mean we will have to wait until January 2016, as the legislative session will begin early next year.
But all of the blame can’t be laid at the feet of the Florida House, the alimony bill was already floundering when the Senate refused to take up the House’s version of the bill, which would have created a formula for the amount of alimony paid based on the length of marriages and the amounts of money spouses earn.
The split involved a provision that would have established a “50-50” presumption regarding child sharing.
The Senate version ( SB 1248 ) revised a finite list of factors that a court must evaluate when determining whether the presumption of approximately equal time-sharing is overcome. It also required that a court order be supported by written findings of fact if that order establishes an initial permanent time-sharing schedule that does not provide for approximately equal time-sharing.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee said that the language in HB 943 was “poorly drafted” and “designed to create confusion in the courts,” according to published reports. The House version of the bill did not include a shared parenting provision.
Unfortunately, this year, as in years past, the state’s alimony reform legislation found itself caught up in political infighting. As a result, divorced spouses and their families will continue to live with the uncertainty and unpredictability of a system that promises permanent alimony as long as one spouse remains unattached and financially dependent – a promise that cannot possibly be delivered and only crushes families in the process.
The legislation would have gone a long way toward changing the current system, while at the same time appeasing those who have been against reform by being more fair and balanced.
Family Law Reform, the organization behind efforts to change the state’s alimony laws, is down, but not out. It points out that the 2016 session begins on January 2, 2016 with preliminary committee hearings beginning this September. Stay tuned!
Lori Barkus is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil and Family Law mediator and guardian ad litem. She handles matters relating to divorce, custody, child support, paternity, collaborative divorce, adoption, parental rights, and family law and civil mediation.
Ms. Barkus is a cum laude graduate of the University of Miami School of Law. She is admitted to practice in Florida, Georgia and the District of Columbia, as well as in the Southern and Middle Districts of Florida and the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of Appeals. She is also a member of Leading Women for Shared Parenting.
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