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Proposed Changes to Florida’s Time-Sharing Laws

If you live in the Tampa Bay area, you might have heard rumblings about proposed changes to Florida’s alimony law. Indeed, legislators have been working on an alimony overhaul for quite some time, and it looks as though it might have enough support to pass. However, what you might not know is that the proposed alimony overhaul has implications that go far beyond financial issues in the aftermath of divorce. Indeed, according to a recent article in the Tampa Bay Business Journal, the law also aims to “change the way judges decide how much time children should spend with their divorced parents.”

What do you need to know about the time-sharing component of the proposed alimony legislation? And how might it impact your family?

Family Law Section of The Florida Bar Opposes Time-Sharing Provision

As the article points out, the alimony legislation is close to reaching approval, but that overhaul will also have major implications for the ways in which divorced parents spend time with their children. And as the article intimates, the time-sharing element of the proposed legislation is what has caused disagreement among Florida lawmakers. Specifically, the Senate budget chief Tom Lee is in favor of the time-sharing portion, while Ritch Workman, the House Rules Chairman, opposed it. And that disagreement “caused alimony proposals to stall last year.” Yet earlier this month, Lee and Workman allegedly came to an agreement in terms of time-sharing legislation.

But just because those lawmakers agree does not mean that the proposed measures will pass easily. To be sure, the Family Law Section of The Florida Bar continues to oppose the legislation in its current form.

Elements of the Time-Sharing Component

What do Florida legislators want to change about the way time-sharing laws work? In short, the legislation started out with “language that would have established a state policy that a schedule ‘provides for substantially equal time-sharing with both parents’ . . . is in a child’s best interest.” To help reach a compromise between opposing members of the legislature, the Senate measure, SB 668, has been amended so that this specific language is no longer included. Instead, the bill “instructs judges ‘to begin with the premise that a minor child should spend approximately equal amounts of time with each parent’ and instructs the court to formulate a time-sharing plan based on a variety of factors.”

Lawmakers looking to change the way that time-sharing works in Florida are concerned about the ambiguous language that is currently in the statute. At the same time, however, those lawmakers do not want to go “from a presumption to a premise” that would assume 50-50 time-sharing unless there is a reason to do otherwise.

To be clear, lawmakers are interested in moving away from statutory language that does not get specific in terms of how a judge should approach a time-sharing agreement (in terms of certain presumptions in favor of either parent), but at the same time, those lawmakers do not want a judge to be bound by a statutory presumption of equal time-sharing between divorced parents. With the “softening” of SB 668, according to the article, the proposed legislation has gone from a presumption of 50-50 time-sharing to a “premise” of it that can change based on different factors.

An Experienced Tampa Family Lawyer Can Help

Ultimately, alterations to child-sharing aspects of the law are aimed at taking some of the animosity out of child custody disputes. While a number of lawmakers have indicated that they would have preferred to address the issue of time-sharing separately—outside the context of the alimony overhaul, which aims to eradicate permanent alimony in future divorces—they believe the bill nonetheless may be able to pass. We will need to wait and see how the Family Law Section of The Florida Bar responds, however.

If you have questions about child custody and time-sharing arrangements, an experienced family lawyer in Tampa can assist you. Contact Samantha L. Dammer to learn more about our services.

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