Will Governor Rick Scott Veto SB 668?
The family law statutes in the state of Florida can be difficult to understand, and can pose many challenges. That's why many people in and around Central Florida consult with the legal team at Sutton Law Firm. We will break down the laws in the books and provide expert legal counsel on matters that affect you.
We've been especially interested lately in Senate Bill 668 (SB 668), proposed legislation that would reform existing alimony and time-sharing laws. Governor Rick Scott has until next week to sign or veto the bill, one which can have major repercussions for parents and their children.
About SB 668: The Basics of This Law
SB 668 would change the current Florida laws with regard to alimony payments and time-sharing. The key takeaways are as follows:
Alimony – A new formula would be applied to alimony payment calculations to account for the length of the marriage, the income of each spouse, and the need for monetary assistance.
Time-Sharing – The bill states that cases ought to begin with the premise that children should split their time with each parent equally, meaning a 50/50 share of time should be considered ideal.
In 2013, Gov. Scott vetoed a previous bill with similar provisions.
SB 668 Still Waiting to Be Signed
When we previously blogged about SB 668, we stated that March 15 was the key date on which Gov. Scott had to sign or veto the bill. This was a mistake. As it turned out, the bill, which was drafted on March 8th, had yet to reach Gov. Scott for consideration.
The new deadline for the governor's action on SB 668 is Tuesday, April 19. This added time has allowed multiple interests to lobby and contact the governor's office with arguments for and against the provisions of the legislation.
Issues with the Time-Sharing Aspects of SB 668
While a premise that a 50/50 split is best for children is not a true legal evidentiary presumption, this law might make it so in practice. The burden of proof would then be on parents to prove a child's best interests with regard to time-sharing.
Some argue that this would become a type of "child support relief act." In other words, as a parent with greater income spends more time with the child, that parent's child support payments to the other parent will decrease.
This seems fair when a parent has a genuine interest in spending time with a child, though some may exploit the system, using more time with their child to reduce their child support payments without providing that child with an environment in their best interests. This is one of the reasons why SB 668 has been opposed by the Family Law section of The Florida Bar.
Arguments Against the Alimony Aspects of SB 668
On its surface, the new formula for calculating alimony aims at fairness, especially given how income and the length of marriage are part of the calculations. Yet in creating a uniform system for making these calculations, the formula also disregards other criteria that are important to consider for alimony payments, such as the education level of the spouse and the health and wellness of the spouse. In matters of mere math, the human element is disregarded.
In short-term marriages, there may be an alimony obligation under the new law whereas current laws would not have an alimony obligation. SB 668 has major consequences for long-term marriages as well since payments can decrease or cease when the payor reaches retirement age. This can have a devastating effect on spouses who should receive payments but divorced later in life.
How SB 668 Can Affect Modifications on Alimony Payment
With current laws on the books, a modification in alimony payments would require a substantial and unanticipated change in a spouse's health or income. With SB 668, the existing ground for alimony modification would remain, but there would be a mathematical ground added that can adjust alimony payments based on a 10 percent change in income.
Say, for example, a woman receiving alimony had a job at the time of her divorce in which she makes $10 an hour. That woman eventually receives a raise to $12 an hour, which is more than a 10 percent increase on her income. As a result, that woman's former spouse can use the 10 percent rule to try to reduce current alimony obligations.
On top of this, if the woman in our example "unreasonably" opposes a request to modify her former spouse's alimony obligations, this can result in her former spouse receiving an attorney fee award in addition to having the alimony obligation reduced.
Contact the Lawyers of the Sutton Law Firm
To learn more about SB 668 and other matters that may affect your family law case, we encourage you to contact our team of attorneys. The lawyers at Sutton Law Firm will keep an eye on further developments on SB 668, so please check in with our blog in the future.