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Changes coming to divorce in Florida?

Florida legislators have made repeated attempts to make significant changes to the alimony and child custody laws currently in effect in the state. Roughly two years ago, they sent a bill to Governor Rick Scott, but he vetoed the proposed changes due to a provision that allowed retroactive changes to alimony awards.

Legislators have made another attempt at revising the alimony and custody laws, and have sent this to the governor just this week. This posting discusses some of the drastic revisions that would result should this most recent proposal pass.

Details concerning the possible changes

The major emphasis of the bill concerns the way that alimony is currently handled in divorce. Right now, the court has discretion in the amount and duration of alimony (sometimes called spousal support or maintenance) that may be awarded in divorce cases. In some situations, if the court believes that it is appropriate, it will order permanent alimony to be paid by one of the spouses.

The new proposal would bring an end to permanent alimony, and would also limit the power that judges have to determine the appropriate spousal support award in divorce cases. Instead of being able to issue a ruling that they feel is right for each particular case, the court will be required to use a formula that considers the length of the marriage and the income disparity between the spouses.

In addition, there is an extremely controversial provision in the bill that impacts child custody. Judges would be required to start their analyses of custody with the idea that each parent should get equal time with the child. Critics contend that this would, in fact, make custody and child support much more contested in divorce cases. Parents would need to show why the court would have to depart from these guidelines, and this could increase the amount of time and energy spent litigating these issues.

What this means for you

These potential changes will impact almost every single divorce in Florida. The consequences of these new laws will make the entire divorce much more complex, and this may leave you with many questions regarding your next steps.

If you are contemplating a divorce, you need to speak to an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible. The specifics of your situation need to be analyzed by a professional to gain a clear understanding of the options that are available to you. If you do not consult an attorney, you could find yourself at a significant disadvantage throughout the proceedings.

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