Florida Alimony Reform and Equal Timesharing (Custody)

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Alimony on Friday, April 24, 2015.

There are two bills in the Florida House and Senate to drastically change alimony. This week, both the House and Senate bills passed their remaining committees and are ready for floor votes. So why write about custody?

I’ve written about equal timesharing before. The reason for the latest update is that both alimony bills have strong language about how judges must award custody rights to parents. But each is slightly different fro each other.

The bills have different language, but both will dramatically change the laws of custody in Florida if passed and signed by the governor.

Senate Bill 1248

Approximately equal time-sharing with a minor child by both parents is presumed to be in the best interest of the child.”

Senate bill 1248 creates a presumption that approximately equal timesharing with a child by both parents is in the child’s best interest. However, a court can establish an unequal timesharing arrangement if it wants.

The judge would have to show an unequal timesharing arrangement is best, and make written findings as to why. The Senate bill has an October 1, 2015 effective date.

House Bill 943

It is further the public policy of this state that a child’s interests are ordinarily best served by the equal and active involvement of both parents in the child’s life. Absent good cause, it is in the minor child’s best interests to have substantial time sharing with both parents.

The House bill started as strictly an alimony bill. However, this week Rep. Burton added the amendment quoted above, and the timesharing provision is different from the Senate version.

First, the bill specifically sets forth a new public policy. It is not common for Florida public policy to be specifically expressed in the statute. What is rarer is that this adds to a previous public policy statement about timesharing already in the statute:

It is the public policy of this state that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing

Second, and unlike the Senate version, the bill does not require “equal timesharing” at all. What it does is codify what I think many judges presume: it allows willing parents to spend a substantial amount of time with their children after divorce and separation.

There is only a few more days left in the regular session of the Legislature this year. Anyone involved in a pending action, seeking to establish a new alimony or parenting plan case, or modify an existing one, should keep their eyes on Tallahassee.

The House Bill can be found here.