50/50 Child Custody Could Be Florida’s Norm

Florida 50-50 Time-Sharing?

Florida 50-50 Time-Sharing?

Most of the talk surrounding Florida’s Senate Bill SB 718 has been its radical overall of Florida’s alimony laws, but there are also significant, less publicized, changes to Florida’s child time-sharing laws (a/k/a child custody laws). Currently there is no presumption for or against time-sharing for either parent. The current agnostic time-sharing law affords Florida family law judges flexibility to fashion time-sharing arrangements that are in the best interests of the child(ren) while fostering a relationship with both parents.

The Legislature is taking away a large portion of Florida family law judges’ discretion in family law cases by declaring that it is in the best interest of children to have 50/50 time-sharing with both parents unless certain narrow exceptions apply. The exceptions include:

1)      A parent who is incarcerated.

2)      A parent who lives too far away to make 50/50 time-sharing practical.

3)      An injunction for protection against domestic violence has been entered.

4)      There is a history of domestic violence in the home.

5)      The safety, well-being, and physical, mental, and emotional health of the child would be endangered by equal time-sharing.

If the above exceptions do not apply, then the parent seeking to deviate from 50/50 time-sharing must show by “clear and convincing evidence of extenuating circumstances” to justify deviation from 50/50 time-sharing. If a parent demonstrates by clear and convincing evidence that 50/50 time-sharing is appropriate, the court must make written findings justifying deviating from 50/50 time-sharing.

The Economics of 50/50 Child Custody

In my opinion, the proposed default 50/50 time-sharing standard will create more intense litigation and lead to more time-sharing orders that are not in the best interest of the child(ren). If Senate Bill SB 718 is signed by Governor Scott, economics will increasingly drive child custody litigation.

Child support is in part calculated based on the number of overnights each parent spends with the parties’ child(ren). Even if one parent has done the majority of the parenting prior to or during the separation of the parties, and the potential non-majority time-sharing parent is not naturally inclined to assume time-sharing responsibility, or has a demanding time-consuming career, the potential non-majority time-sharing parent seeking to reduce child support will point to the Legislature’s 50/50 time-sharing pronouncement when negotiating or litigating child support.  Why? In my experience as a divorce attorney, many parents seek to minimize their child support obligation.  It makes economic sense for the post separation non-majority time-sharing parent to ask for 50/50 time-sharing as a means to reduce child support, even if they may not be naturally inclined to assume 50/50 time-sharing. Senate Bill 718 will make that easier. The question is: will child(ren) benefit?

Current Time-Sharing Law

If you are interested in Florida’s current time-sharing law, click on the following link to an article discussing the current law.

Contact The Taylor Law Office

If you have questions about how Senate Bill SB 718 may impact your family law case, please contact us at 904-339-5298 or through this website. Your first consultation is free.





Florida House Passage of Florida Senate Bill SB 718 Makes Alimony 

Florida's CapitalReform Close To Reality

With the Florida House of Representatives passing the Florida Senate’s alimony reform bill, comprehensive alimony reform is one step closer to becoming a reality in Florida.  Senate Bill SB 718  convincingly passed the Florida House 85 to 31. Given the strong support of Senate Bill SB 718, it is likely Governor Scott will sign Senate Bill SB 718 into law.

Senate Bill SB 718 will have a dramatic impact on Florida’s family law landscape. There will be a wave of alimony modification litigation if Senate Bill SB 718 becomes law.

Senate Bill SB 718’s time table for modification of existing alimony obligations:

1.    A person paying alimony who is subject to alimony of 15 years or more may file a modification action on or after July 1, 2013.

 2.  A person paying alimony who is subject to alimony of 8 years or more, but less than 15 years, may file a modification action on or after July 1, 2014.

 3.   A person paying alimony who is subject to alimony of less than 8 years may file a modification action on or after July 1, 2015.

Senate Bill SB 718 Changes to Time-Sharing (a/k/a Child Custody) 

In addition to reforming Florida’s alimony laws, Senate Bill SB 718 makes equal time-sharing (a/k/a custody) between the parents the norm unless there is clear and convincing evidence justifying a departure from equal time-sharing. Personally, I think this portion of Senate Bill SB 718 will create more child custody litigation because their are numerous circumstances where equal time-sharing is not in the best interests of a child, even when both parents are good people. When it is not in the child(ren)’s best to have 50/50 time-sharing with both parents, Senate Bill SB 718 will make it necessary to heavily litigate child custody issues to meet the clear and convincing  burden of evidence. For more information on Senate Bill 718’s changes to time-sharing, click on the following link to a blog post discussing the proposed 50/50 time-sharing.

Excellent Job Lobbying By Florida Alimony Reform

Florida Alimony Reform (“FAR”), the group spearheading Florida alimony reform, did an excellent job lobbying the Legislature and getting the message of alimony reform out to the public. It appears that FAR’s hard work is about to pay off. As a family law practitioner, I will be working through the result of the changes for years to come.

Contact The Taylor Law Office

If you have questions about how Senate Bill SB 718  may impact your family law case or whether modification of alimony may be appropriate, please contact us at 904-339-5298 or click on the contact form above. Your first consultation is free.



2013 Florida Alimony Reform Goes Too Far on Short Term AlimonyFlorida Short Term Alimony Reform

A vigorous debate is taking place in the Florida Legislature regarding two alimony reform bills. The Senate’s version is numbered SB 718 and the House’s version is numbered HB 231. Much of the rhetoric in support of alimony reform from groups like Florida Alimony Reform (“FAR”) is focused on permanent alimony horror stories.  While I certainly don’t agree with FAR on a number points, some of the proposed reforms to permanent alimony, such as making it easier for a person to terminate permanent alimony when they reach social security retirement age, are worthy of consideration by the Legislature.

A Presumption against Alimony in Short Term Marriages

It would take thousands of words to discuss the pros and cons of the proposed alimony reform pending in Florida’s Legislature, so I am focusing on a narrow part of the proposed reform which affects short term alimony. Senate Bill 718, as of 3/27/2013, states in relevant part:

“…There is a rebuttable presumption against awarding alimony for short term marriages. A party seeking bridge-the-gap or rehabilitative alimony may overcome this presumption by demonstrating by a preponderance of the evidence a need for alimony.”

Currently, there are no presumptions against a court awarding bridge-the-gap or rehabilitative alimony in short term marriages.

The current definitions of bridge-the-gap and rehabilitative alimony are as follows:

1) Bridge-The-Gap Alimony

Bridge-the gap alimony may be awarded to assist a spouse by providing support to facilitate the transition from being married to being single. Bridge-the-gap alimony is for short-term needs, and the length is not exceed a period of two years. An award of bridge-the-gap alimony terminates upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the party receiving alimony. An award of bridge-the-gap alimony shall not be modifiable in amount or duration.

2) Rehabilitative Alimony

Rehabilitative alimony may be awarded to assist a spouse in establishing the capacity for self-support. Rehabilitative alimony must be accompanied by a specific plan. Rehabilitation may include:

a) The redevelopment of previous skills or credentials; or

b) The acquisition of education, training, or work experience necessary to develop appropriate employment skills or credentials.

 Rehabilitative alimony may be terminated for non-compliance with a rehabilitation plan.

In my practice as a Jacksonville family law attorney, I occasionally see clients in “short term” marriages (currently defined as seven years or less) experience dire financial circumstances when separated from a bread winning spouse. Consider this hypothetical situation:  hypothetical stay-at-home wife, who was formerly employed in the technology sector, has stayed at home for the last five years since being married. The hypothetical husband, who makes a good living in medicine, has moved out of the residence with a new paramour and refuses to provide the wife support.  The hypothetical parties have limited assets aside from husband’s pay. In the last five years, the hypothetical wife’s job skills have become outdated in the fast moving technology sector. Should Florida law make it harder for the wife to receive short term alimony while she updates her skills to regain employment?

In my view, there shouldn’t be a presumption against parties in short terms marriages from receiving bridge-the-gap or rehabilitative alimony. Such a presumption runs contrary to the “systemic culture of dependency” rhetoric proponents of alimony reform express as a basis for alimony reform. Both rehabilitative and bridge-the gap are “get back on your feet” types of alimony. They are short term in nature and are designed to transition a dependent spouse back to independence. Under the current alimony law, family law judges have the discretion to award or not award rehabilitative and bridge-the gap alimony based on a number of factors.  Let’s not place barriers to spouses who need help getting back on their feet.

Contact The Taylor Law Office

If you have questions about alimony in the Jacksonville, Florida area, please contact your Jacksonville Family Law Attorney at 904-339-5298 or through this website. Your first consultation is free.