A few months ago as the 2016 Florida Legislative session drew to a close, Governor Rick Scott vetoed a bill that had received strong support in both houses of the Florida Legislature. The bill, SB 688 would have required judges in divorce proceedings to begin with a premise that both parents are entitled to approximately equal time with their children. Governor Scott believes this provision is not in the best interests of the children.
However, the majority of the bill dealt with the issue of alimony which Scott did not address in his decision to veto. The alimony provisions contained in the bill would have provided the courts with established calculation guidelines to determine alimony based on duration of a marriage and incomes of both parties. The bill would have eliminated permanent alimony.
According to one media outlet covering the issue, “Under existing Florida law, people can be forced to pay alimony even when they are blameless and their adulterous ex-spouse has moved in with a lover. For example, in Baxter v. Baxter (1998), the wife “fell in love with a woman friend and moved with her to a mountain top in Puerto Rico. Although the wife’s friend ha[d] an income of over $100,000 a year,” the wife sought and obtained “$860 per month” in alimony. In Heilman v. Heilman (1992), the state appeals court reversed the denial of an adulterous wife’s request for alimony after she moved in with her lover, rejecting the argument that “the family’s emotional devastation at the news of the extra-marital affair” weighed against alimony. No innocent spouse should be forced to pay permanent alimony in such circumstances.”
Governor Scott did not address these issues though. Rather, he focused on the presumption at the outset of a divorce proceeding in favor of 50/50 custody. In my opinion as a divorce lawyer and a husband and father who has experienced a divorce, a judge should start with the presumption that if all things are equal then a child should spend 50% of the time with each parent and at trial a determination may be made to alter this arrangement based on financial, domestic, and psychological stability. Another factor to consider would be the existence of a criminal record.
This overhaul of the alimony law was combined with child custody when in fact they have nothing to do with each other. If one parent needs income to support the children then that is separate and distinct from alimony. If a parent needs to stay home and raise children and cannot work that parent would need child-support not necessarily alimony.