Legislative Update – April 9, 2019

     New legislation that could bring sweeping changes to family law cases in Florida has been introduced in the form of Senate Bill 1596. This bill, if passed, would eliminate permanent alimony. The bill would also change the definition of a long-term marriage and put a cap on alimony awards. This bill could greatly limit the litigation surrounding alimony cases.
Bill 1596 also contains a provision that would create a presumption for equal time sharing for parents. This provision caused earlier alimony reform legislation to be vetoed in the past. The new legislation would severely limit the ability of courts to fashion time-sharing plans that meet the needs of individual families. As an attorney who regularly litigates divorce cases, I have several concerns with the current bill. Most judges I practice in front of start with a presumption that time-sharing should be close to equal. Courts look at the needs of an individual family, and fashion a parenting plan that is intended to be in the best interest of the child or children.
   The current proposed legislation would remove this discretion from the judges by creating a strong presumption that equal time sharing is in the best interest of children. This presumption could only be overcome in situations where domestic violence or sexual abuse was present, or distance between the parents make equal time sharing impossible. If passed, the current bill would have and immediate impact on all time sharing cases, and might not necessarily be in the best interest of the children of some divorcing families.