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Second Time Not a Charm for Family Law Reform Bill

Posted By Ryan Albaugh || 28-Apr-2016

Florida Governor Rick Scott recently vetoed legislation that would have created a presumption of equal time timesharing for divorcing parents and overhauled the alimony awards. Governor Scott cited concerns of shifting the focus of courts considering such issues from the best interest of children and each unique situation to the desires and preferences of the parents.

How Time-Sharing and Alimony Are Currently Determined in Florida

The current law, which remains unchanged due to the veto, requires judges to consider the best interests of the child when determining an appropriate time-sharing schedule and parenting plan. This typically results in one parent being designated as the majority time-sharing parent and enjoying approximately 65% of time with the child, and the other parent being designated as the minority time-sharing parent and enjoying approximately 35% of time with the child. Of course, other factors such as parent work schedules and the proximity of one parent’s home to the other can change how time with the child is divided.

Likewise with respect to alimony, Florida Statute 61.08 remains the law. Alimony may be awarded as bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or permanent, or in any combination of these. A court may also order that Payment of alimony be periodic or in a lump sum. A court will consider the following factors in determining alimony:

  1. The standard of living established during the marriage.
  2. The duration of the marriage.
  3. The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.
  4. The financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.
  5. The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment.
  6. The contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party.
  7. The responsibilities each party will have with regard to any minor children they have in common.
  8. The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a nontaxable, nondeductible payment.
  9. All sources of income available to either party, including income available to either party through investments of any asset held by that party.
  10. Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.

In addition, for purposes of determining alimony, there is a rebuttable presumption that a short-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of less than 7 years, a moderate-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of greater than 7 years but less than 17 years, and long-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of 17 years or greater. The length of a marriage is typically calculated as the period of time from the date of marriage until the date of filing of an action for dissolution of marriage.

Permanent alimony may be awarded following a marriage of long duration if such an award is appropriate upon consideration of the factors above, following a marriage of moderate duration if such an award is appropriate based upon clear and convincing evidence after consideration of the factors set forth above, or following a marriage of short duration if there are written findings of exceptional circumstances.

With respect to the amount of alimony awarded, the amount may not leave the payor with significantly less net income than the net income of the recipient unless there are written findings of exceptional circumstances. This is typically the biggest concern for the payor spouse and one of the most common aspects of family law court orders that get appealed.

The determination of alimony is a serious and life changing event in most divorces. Having an experienced Florida family law attorney at your side is essential. Contact Albaugh law today to speak to a capable and qualified family law attorney to discuss your situation.