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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Legislature passes changes to alimony, child time-sharing laws



A sweeping rewrite of the Florida’s divorce laws is headed to Gov. Rick Scott after being passed by the Legislature.

Under SB 668, judges could no longer grant lifetime alimony payments, and much of the discretion in negotiating each case would be gone. Instead, the amount and duration of alimony would be determined by a formula written into law.

But the component that has caused the loudest outcry has been a “premise” that children split time equally between both parents. Judges would have to adjust from that point based on a variety of factors.

“Everything should be in the best interest of the child, and this is making the best interest of the child secondary,” said Rep. Lori Berman, D-Lantana.

The bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland, said Tuesday that the legislation “will make circumstances a little bit easier during a really emotional and trying time for families.”

It passed the House 74-38 Tuesday after clearing the Senate last week. It now goes to Scott, who vetoed a similar measure two years ago. That vetoed legislation would likely have been retroactive. SB 668 is specifically not retroactive in dealing with children, but it is not clear whether courts would consider back alimony cases using the new rules.

Opponents have argued that the alimony rewrite is essentially an assault on women, who make up 96 percent of recipients.

“That wife who gave up her career aspirations and her dreams for children and her husband, she did it for love,” said Rep. Cynthia Stafford, D-Miami. “Under this bill, this sacrifice for love could be a disadvantage if they divorce.”

For some the state lawmakers pushing the bill, however, this is personal.

Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, has long been an advocate of such reforms after his own 2010 divorce from his wife, Tiffany. He told that story on the House floor, saying that what matters most to him is the 50/50 time split with children. In his case, he said, he had to fight to gain equal time with his kids.

“It was the same thing as issuing me a death warrant,” he said. “You may as well give me the razorblades and a warm bath if I could only see Bailey and Sophie on Wednesday nights and weekends.”

[Last modified: Tuesday, March 8, 2016 1:05pm]


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