A bill passed by the Florida Legislature and headed for the governor’s signature would make major changes to the state’s alimony laws and custody-sharing agreements, worrying family law advocates that women and children could be hurt.
If signed by Gov. Rick Scott, the law would end permanent alimony in Florida.
Supporters of alimony reform say the changes are long overdue to correct an antiquated system more suited to the homemakers of past decades than today’s families. Four other states have already abolished permanent alimony.
The law would also set new standards for what constitutes a short or long-term marriage and allows a modification or end to payments when the alimony payer retires.
Passed by the Senate this month and by the House on a 85-31 vote Thursday, the bill could alter countless cases that were already decided. It’s written to apply retroactively and would go into effect July 1 if Scott signs the bill.
But it also includes new language about “time sharing,” which says that, with some exceptions, equal time with each parent is presumed to be in the child’s best interest.
Much about the reform looks good on paper, said Cynthia Hawkins DeBose, a family law expert and law professor at Stetson University College of Law. With these changes, Florida will be among only a few states to tackle widespread changes to alimony, she said.
“In that respect, for good or for bad, this would be something seen as a frontrunning. cutting-edge change,” DeBose said.