Is Florida alimony reform bill in the best interest of children?

Florida residents may be aware of a bill that would make significant changes to the state's current alimony law and custody-sharing agreements and is headed to the governor for signature. Given some new language regarding custody-sharing, this bill could impact child support payments.

In essence, if the bill becomes law, it would end permanent alimony in Florida. Further, the new law sets standards determining what is a short-term marriage and what is a long-term marriage under the law. Based on these terms, the proposed law permits a modification or ends payments when the party paying alimony retires. The bill would apply retroactively.

Some opponents of the bill question the constitutionality of retroactively applying the bill and its impact on existing alimony agreements. Proponents of the bill believe that the bitterness surrounding permanent alimony and custody battles will be removed and will bring consistency and predictability for families.

In addition, the bill also includes new language about sharing parental time. It states that with some exceptions, equal time with each parent is presumed to be in the best interest of the child. Some are concerned about the impact of this bill on child support calculations. Presently, the amount of time a child spends with each parent is taken into consideration when calculating child support payment. Thus, a 50-50 arrangement could potentially decrease the child support obligation or completely eliminate it even if the equal split does not actually happen. Those parents who receive child support payments are likely to be hurt, advocates say.

Any change in law can be complex and confusing. It is difficult for people to follow and keep current with changes in law. Given the sweeping effect this bill will have on family law, those who feel they may be personally affected by the proposed new law should get help researching their options.

Source: Florida Times-Union, "Bill ending permanent alimony in Florida goes to governor," Kate Perry, April 18, 2013

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