Florida Alimony Reform 2016: R.I.P.

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Alimony on Monday, April 18, 2016.

Governor Scott vetoed the single most contentious bill from the 2016 Legislature last week: the alimony and equal time-sharing reform bill. What’s it mean?

As the Miami Herald reports, Scott’s veto ended weeks of suspense and intense lobbying campaigns on both sides during which more than 11,000 calls and e-mails bombarded his office, with supporters ahead by a 4-1 margin.

I wrote about the failure of the alimony reform bill and equal timesharing provision last year, when the Florida House of Representatives made a surprising end of their session, killing all bills. This year, the surprise came from the Governor’s office!

Scott, who like many of his constituents have experienced divorce in his own family, delivered a veto message with an unusually personal tone.

“As a husband, father and grandfather, I understand the importance of family and the sensitivity and passion that comes with the subject of family law,” Scott’s veto message said. “As such, we should be judicious and carefully consider the long-term and real-life repercussions on Florida families.”

He said he was troubled by a provision in the bill (SB 668) that would require judges to begin divorce proceedings with a premise that both parents are entitled to approximately equal time with their children.

Scott said that would put “the wants of a parent before the child’s best interest by creating a premise of equal time-sharing,” a decision that he said should be left to judges.

Though emotionally divisive, the bill had broad support in the Legislature, passing the House by a comfortable 74-38 margin and the Senate by a 24-14 vote in March.

“At this point, it is unclear what future family law reform legislation the governor may find acceptable,” Lee said in a statement. “[The] veto message is vague and does nothing to further illuminate the governor’s concerns … [It)]focuses exclusively on potential outcomes without giving reasons for how the legislation could actually result in those outcomes.”

The Representative most responsible for merging the alimony and timesharing provisions was Representative Ritch Workman. On Friday he admitted that his decision to merge alimony and child custody provisions in one bill was the wrong strategy.

“The governor’s message is clear,” Workman said. “We must tackle each issue in family law separately rather than lumping them all together.”

The Miami Herald article is here.