Divorces, by nature, tend to produce disputes between the parties as they start to untangle their lives from one another. Decisions about spousal support and child custody are areas that commonly result in contentious communications due to their financial nature. Changes to the law in these areas has the potential to affect many lives, and Florida lawmakers considered revisions to the law on alimony and child custody more than once over the past several years. It appears they will look at it again in the current legislative session now that Republican Senator Tom Lee recently introduced a bill that proposes broad changes to the current provisions on alimony and child custody, and seeks to establish a collaborative law process in hopes of taking some of the combative tension out of divorce cases. An overview of the potential changes to the law will be discussed below to keep those divorced or divorcing aware of the impact this could have if the bill is passed.Alimony
The most sweeping change proposed under the bill is to require courts to make specific findings using a number of factors to justify an award of durational alimony. Durational alimony is spousal support that is paid for a set period of time and intended to provide financial assistance until the recipient has the ability to support him- or herself. The factors the court would consider relate to the financial situation of each party and the ability of the alimony recipient to obtain gainful employment based on current skills or with additional training or education. The language included in the bill could make it more difficult to get alimony since courts would need to look at voluntary un- and underemployment of the recipient spouse when making a determination. The proposed formula courts would use to calculate how much should be awarded is based on the difference between the monthly gross incomes of the parties and the length of the marriage. Additionally, the bill alters how long a couple must be married before there is a presumption that alimony should be paid. The proposed law has a presumption against paying alimony for marriages shorter than two years. Under the current statute, any marriage less than seven years is short-term, and the duration is just one factor when deciding if alimony is appropriate. Further, the proposed bill limits how much a person must pay in cases of combined awards for child support and alimony to no more than 55 percent of the payor’s net income.Child Custody
In the area of child custody, the proposed bill wants a presumption in favor of equal time-sharing between the parents as being in the best interest of the child. It also wants to add new factors to those used by courts to decide what is in the best interest of the child. The new factors would be how much time-sharing each parent wants and how often one parent would leave the child with a non-relative on weekends and evenings when the other parent is available to provide care.Collaborative Law Process
Finally, Senator Lee’s proposed legislation includes the creation of a collaborative law process that would provide a voluntary alternative method of settling family law matters, rather than traditional court-based petitions or lawsuits. This process allows the parties to work with attorneys to craft agreements to settle issues related to divorce, paternity, support, custody and property distribution. There is no court involvement unless one of the parties wants to terminate or limit the scope of the collaborative law process.Find a Lawyer
Trying to figure out whether to ask for alimony and/or child support is a key decision in any divorce case and is a determination that can benefit from the advice of an attorney. If you are located in the Fort Lauderdale or Boynton Beach areas, Stok Kon + Braverman, offer legal representation on wide variety of family law issues. Contact us for a confidential consultation.