Until approximately one week ago I was expecting to write this month’s article on the changes in Family Law that would be taking effect as of October 1, 2016. For the second time in four years the Florida Legislature had passed a bill which would have modified the current alimony laws in this state; and for the second time in four years Governor Scott has vetoed the bill. The result is that everything remains the same and the proposed laws that were passed by the legislature are forgotten, at least until 2017; when they reconvene.
The reason the Governor gave for vetoing the alimony reform bill four years ago was due to the fact that it contained a retroactive clause. This would have allowed individuals, who were either ordered to pay or agreed to pay permanent alimony to go back into court and seek either a termination or reduction based upon the change in the law. The Governor indicated that if in fact that provision was removed in the future he would in fact pass an alimony reform bill.
This year the retroactive provision was in fact removed but the legislature added a time sharing provision, which would have resulted in an equal time sharing presumption when there are minor children involved. Currently, there is no such presumption, although it is very common that Mothers and Fathers do have equal time sharing with minor children. In spite of what many individuals believe because of their independent research on the internet, there is no such equal time sharing presumption in Florida today. Each case is considered independently and the Court is to consider the best interests of the children. In exercising his veto power, Governor Scott indicated that he felt the equal time sharing provision did not protect the interests of the children.
Obviously the issue of alimony reform is controversial. Individuals who are not directly involved in an alimony case may not have an opinion about this matter. Those that are receiving permanent alimony or may potentially fall within those who might be required to pay such alimony if divorced, may see it differently than those who are receiving or might receive permanent alimony. Those within the legal community are themselves divided as to whether alimony reform is a positive or a negative. I can only advise a client as to what the current law is and not what it may be or should be. As I stated before, every case is different and it is difficult to structure a law which applies to all situations. The one issue which I thought would be beneficial to prospective clients was a formula to calculate the amount of alimony to be paid or received. Currently, there is no alimony guideline in Florida and therefore it Is sometimes difficult to advise someone how much alimony may be involved in a particular case.
I suspect that this issue will be raised again next year by the legislature, as it seems that some type of reform is inevitable.