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Florida's SB 718 contains alimony and child visitation provisions

Florida Senate Bill SB 718 (SB 718) was put in place foremost to reform alimony laws in place in our state. Lawmakers have since passed the bill and it has now been placed on the desk of the Florida's governor for his signature.

Many supporters of the bill have maintained that the reform is necessary due to judges having too much discretion concerning alimony decisions. Opponents of the bill feel women have too often been denied professional opportunities to gain work experience and education because they needed to stay in the home to raise the couple's children. Now the spouses that have agreed to take care of the financial needs for the other spouse may wish to go back on those obligations after a divorce has occurred.

Though the bill would toss out permanent alimony orders, it would keep in place alimony for certain durational periods that would help a spouse adjust to their new circumstances and help with what is called rehabilitation.

However, most importantly for the purposes of the children in such marriages are provisions concerning child visitation. Equal time sharing for both parents will be presumed under SB 718 except when: (1) such visitation could put the child at risk; (2) clear and convincing evidence is presented that equal time sharing would not be in the best interest of the child; (3) a parent is in prison; or (4) geographic distance makes equal time sharing difficult or impossible.

Almost all provisions of a divorce decree including those pertaining to alimony will affect the children in some manner. For example, changes in alimony laws may ultimately affect what family law attorneys will seek in child support. Though courts need to abide by the laws, attorneys still need to make sure that any application of the laws does not harm the children.

Though it's possible that the governor will not sign the bill, the Florida House sent the bill on by an 85-31 vote. This at least indicates that SB 718 could become law.

Source: Jacksonville Business Journal, "Florida lawmakers pass alimony reform, send bill to Gov. Scott," by Christine Jordan Sexton, April 19, 2013

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