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Gov. Rick Scott Vetoes Custody & Alimony Reform Bill

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Florida Governor Rick Scott recently vetoed a controversial alimony reform bill (SB 668) after claiming that the legislation could potentially end up prioritizing the wants of parents over the best interests of children. The Bill passed the Senate 24-14 and later cleared the House on a 74-38 vote before being struck down on April 15, 2016.

The Bill proposed the following main changes:

  • Children should spend equal time with each parent
  • The reduction of alimony payments with a “substantial change in circumstances”

This bill was the final bill of the 2016 legislative session and the last one sent to the governor. Although he commended the sponsors of the bill for their efforts to overhaul Florida’s divorce and alimony laws, Scott disagreed that the legislation would be an improvement over Florida’s current system. Currently, judges make parenting plan determinations based on the best interests of the child. According to Scott, the bill could potentially upend this standard by placing more weight on the wants of a parent by creating a promise of equal time-sharing – a situation which may not be ideal in all cases.

The governor believes that, because divorce affects families in different ways, each family law issue must be dealt separately rather than lumping them all together. “Family law issues are very personal, and nearly every family comes to the court with different circumstances and needs,” he declared in his veto letter. “As such, we must be judicious and carefully consider the long term and real life repercussions on Florida families.”

Scott met with representatives of the Florida National Organization for Women, the League of Women Voters of Florida, and other groups who felt that the bill was wrong for Florida. Even the Family Law Section of The Florida Bar, who initially backed the bill, lobbied heavily for a veto.

Proponents of the bill, however, argue that Scott provided no reason for how the new legislation would have resulted in the detrimental outcomes he predicted in his veto. They have stated that the new law would not have changed the responsibility of judges to make decisions based on the best interests of the child, stating that they would still be bound to the 20 factors listed in current law.

Have questions about child custody or alimony in Florida? Contact a Jacksonville family law attorney at Owenby Law, P.A. We’ve been putting families first for over a decade. Schedule a free initial consultation when you call (904) 770-3141.