A number of Family Law Bills are currently pending in this year’s Florida Legislative Session. They address Alimony, Domestic Violence & Children, Support for Dependent Adult Children, Parenting Plans, Designated Safe Exchange Locations, Paternity and Depository for Child Support. Following is a summary I’ve prepared of the key points of each proposed Bill. To read Bills in full, click the links provided below.
I. ALIMONY REFORM
For the last 10 years supporters of updating Florida state alimony laws have been unsuccessful. For the first time, those on both sides are supporting the proposals and are feeling confident the Bill will pass.
This section applies to all initial petitions for dissolution of marriage or support unconnected with dissolution pending or filed on or after July 1, 2023.
Fla. Stat. 61.08(1)(a) – No Permanent Alimony: The court may award temporary, bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, duration or lump sum alimony.
Fla. Stat. 61.08(2)(a) – The party seeking support, maintenance or alimony has the burden of proving his/her need for support, maintenance or alimony and the other party’s ability to pay support, maintenance or alimony.Fla. Stat. 61.08(3) – If the court finds that the party has a need for support and the other party has the ability to pay, then the court shall consider numerous factors to determine the amount of support (see Bill for specific factors).
Fla. Stat. 61.08(4) – The court must make specific findings that there are special circumstances that warrant the purchase or maintenance of a life insurance policy to secure the alimony award. If the court orders a party to purchase or maintain a life insurance policy, the court may apportion the costs of such insurance to either or both parties based upon a determination of the ability of the obligee and obligor to pay.
Fla. Stat. 61.08(5) – There is a rebuttable presumption that a short-term marriage is a marriage less than 10 years, a moderate-term marriage is a marriage between 10 and 20 of and a long-term marriage is a marriage 20 years or longer.
Fla. Stat. 61.08(6) – An award of bridge-the-gap alimony may not exceed two years.
Fla. Stat. 61.08(7)(c) – The length of an award of rehabilitative alimony may not exceed five years.
Fla. Stat. 61.08(8)(a) – Durational alimony may not be awarded for a marriage lasting less than three years.
Fla. Stat. 61.08(8)(b) – An award of durational alimony may not exceed 50 percent of the length of a short-term marriage, 60 percent of the length of a moderate-term marriage, or 75 percent of the length of a long-term marriage, unless the court find by clear and convincing evidence that it is necessary.
Fla. Stat. 61.08(8)(c) – The amount of durational alimony is the amount determined to be the obligee’s reasonable need, or an amount not to exceed 35 percent of the difference between the parties’ net income, whichever amount is less.
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Fla. Stat. Section 61.13(3) – Support of children; parenting and timesharing; powers of court
If the parents of a child are residing greater than 50 miles apart at the time of the entry of the last order establishing time sharing and a parent moves within 50 miles of the other parent, then that move may be considered a substantial and material change in circumstances for the purpose of a modification to the time-sharing schedule, so long as there is a determination that the modification is in the best interests of the child.
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Fla. Stat. Section 61.14 – Enforcement and modification of support
Fla. Stat. 61.14(1)(b)1 – The court must reduce or terminate an award of support, maintenance, or alimony upon specific written findings by the court that since the granting of a divorce and the award of alimony a supportive relationship has existed between the obligee and a person who is not related to the obligee by consanguinity or affinity.
Fla. Stat. 61.14(1)(b)2 – The burden is on the obligor to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that a supportive relationship exists or has existed in the days before the filing of the petition for dissolution of marriage, separate maintenance, or supplemental petition for modification. If a supportive relationship is proven to exist or to have existed, the burden shifts to the obligee to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the court should not deny or reduce an initial award of support, maintenance, or alimony or reduce or terminate an existing award of support, maintenance, or alimony. The court shall consider and make written findings of fact regarding all relevant facts in s. 61.08(3).
Fla. Stat. 61.14(1)(c)1 – The court may reduce or terminate an award of support, maintenance, or alimony upon written findings that the obligor has reached normal retirement age as defined by the Social Security Administration or the customary retirement age for his or her profession and that the obligor has taken demonstrative and measurable efforts or actions to retire or has actually retired. The burden is on the obligor to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that his or her retirement reduces his or her ability to pay support, maintenance, or alimony. If the court determines that the obligor’s retirement has reduced or will reduce the obligor’s ability to pay, the burden shifts to the obligee to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the obligor’s support, maintenance, or alimony obligation should not be terminated or reduced.
Fla. Stat. 61.14(1)(c)2 – In determining whether an award of support, maintenance, or alimony should be reduced or terminated because of the obligor’s voluntary retirement, the court shall give consideration to, and make written findings of fact regarding the following factors:
(a) The age and health of the obligor
(b) The nature and type of work performed by the obligor
(c) The customary age of retirement in the obligor’s profession
(d) The obligor’s motivation for retirement and likelihood of returning to work
(e) The needs of the obligee and the ability of the obligee to contribute toward his or her own basic needs
(f) The economic impact that a termination or reduction of alimony would have on the obligee
(g) All assets of the obligee and the obligor accumulated or acquired prior to the marriage, during the marriage, or following the entry of the final judgment as well as the obligor and obligee’s respective roles in the wasteful depletion of any marital assets received by him or her at the time of the entry of the final judgment.
(h) The income of the obligee and the obligor earned during the marriage or following the entry of the final judgment
(i) The social security benefits, retirement plan benefits, or pension benefits payable to the obligor and the obligee following the final judgment of dissolution
(j) The obligor’s compliance, in whole or in part, with the existing alimony obligation
Fla. Stat. 61.14(1)(c)3 – In reasonable anticipation of retirement, but not more than 6 months before retirement, the obligor may file a petition for modification of his or her support, maintenance, or alimony obligation, which shall be effective upon his or her reasonable and voluntary retirement as determined by the court.
II. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND CHILDREN –
Fla. Stat. 61.13(2)(c) – Support of children; parenting and timesharing; powers of court
The Bill is referred to as “Greyson’s Law.” It is named for the murdered 4-year old, Greyson Kessler, who was killed in May, 2021 by his father in a murder-suicide. The mother was unable to suspend timesharing because the Father made threats only against the Mother and not towards the child. Since this tragic loss, the mother, Ali Kessler, has been working tirelessly to pass this Bill to protect other children in similar situations.
The court shall order shared parental responsibility, unless the court finds that it would be detrimental to the child. In determining detriment to the child, the court shall consider:
a) Evidence of domestic violence
b) Whether either parent has or has had reasonable cause to believe that he or she or the minor child is or has been in imminent danger of being a victim of domestic violence
c) Whether either parent has or has had reasonable cause to believe that he or she or the minor child is or has been in imminent danger of being a victim of abuse, abandonment or neglect
The above evidence creates a rebuttable presumption that share parental responsibility is detrimental.
III. SUPPORT FOR DEPENDENT ADULT CHILDREN
Fla. Stat. Section 61.1255 – A new statute created to provide guidance for the Support of Dependent Adult Children; legislative intent; powers of court
Fla. Stat. 61.1255(2)(a) – A “dependent adult child” is defined as an unmarried adult who is incapable of self-support as a result of a physical or mental incapacity that began before the person reached the age of 18.
Fla. Stat. 61.1255(2)(b) – A civil suit to establish support for a dependent adult must be filed in the circuit court in the county in which the dependent adult child resides by either the dependent adult child or his/her agent, a parent or other person on behalf of the dependent adult child or the dependent adult child’s guardian.
Fla. Stat. 61.1255(2)(c) – The civil suit may be filed after child reaches the age of 17 years and 6 months.
Fla. Stat. 61.1255(3)(d) – The parents may agree in the dissolution case to provide the dependent adult child support as long as the agreement is submitted to the court for approval before the dependent adult child reaches the age of 18. (emphasis added)
Fla. Stat. 61.31 – Amount of support for a dependent adult child
The following factors shall be considered to determine the amount of support to be paid for a dependent adult child:
(a) The dependent adult child’s income and assets
(b) Existing and future needs of the dependent adult child
(c) Whether someone pays or will pay for the care or supervision of the dependent adult child or provide substantial care to the dependent adult child himself/herself
(d) The financial resources available to each parent to support the dependent adult child
(e) Any other financial resources or programs available for support
Fla. Stat. 61.31(3) – In making its decision the court shall consider:
(a) State and federal programs and benefits that the dependent adult child is receiving or may receive
(b) The effect a court-ordered support would have on the dependent adult child’s eligibility for programs and benefits
The court may not order support that will cause ineligibility for programs in which the dependent adult child currently participate or programs and services for which the dependent adult child is reasonably expected to become eligible upon reaching majority.
IV. PARENTING PLANS – PRESUMPTION OF EQUAL TIME SHARING
There is a presumption that equal time-sharing is in the best interest of the minor child. Differences between the House and Senate versions of the Bills:
(a) Presumption: House Bill states there is a “rebuttable presumption” whereas the Senate version requires a “presumption.”
(b) How to prove not in the best interest of the Child: House Bill states that a parent would have to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that equal timesharing is not in the best interests of the minor child. Senate Bill states the party in opposition to equal time-sharing must prove by competent and substantial evidence that equal timesharing is not in the best interests of the minor child.
(c) In the House version only, modifications of timesharing will no longer require a showing of “unanticipated” change of circumstances.
For purposes of modifying a parenting plan and time-sharing schedule, if a parent relocates from a residence more than 50 miles from the primary residence of the child to a residence within 50 miles of the primary residence of the child it is presumed to be a substantial, material, and unanticipated change in circumstances (in Senate version only).
V. DESIGNATED SAFE EXCHANGE LOCATIONS
This Bill is referred to as the “Cassie Carli Law.” In March 2022, Carli was kidnapped by her former partner during a custody exchange of their daughter in Navarre Beach, Florida. Her body was found a week later in a shallow grave in Alabama. The Bill provides county-mandated safe spaces for parents to meet to exchange their children.
Fla. Stat. 61.13(10) – Support of children; parenting and timesharing; powers of court
House Bill: Where a court approves, grants, or modifies a parenting plan, the court must consider whether it is in the best interests of the minor child to require the parties to use a safe exchange location.
Senate Bill: The parenting plan must state that at any time, a parent or a parent’s designee may choose to exchange the child with the other parent or the other parent’s designee at a designated public safe exchange location.
Senate Bill: A parent may not be found in violation of his or her parenting plan, time-sharing schedule, or child exchange order, if the parent or the parent’s designee chooses to use a designated public safe exchange location to exchange custody of his or her child instead of a location that was previously agreed to by both parents or stated in the parenting plan, timesharing schedule, or child exchange order.
VI. PATERNITY – ESTABLISHMENT OF PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY AND CHILD SUPPORT
Fla. Stat. 742.011 – Determination of Paternity Proceedings; Jurisdiction: After the birth of the child, a parent may request a determination of parental responsibility and child support and for the creation of a parenting plan and timesharing schedule.
Fla. Stat. 742.10 – Establishment of Paternity for Children Born out of Wedlock: Regardless of whether paternity is established in an action under s. 742.011 or this section, the determination of parental responsibility and child support and the creation of a parenting plan and time-sharing schedule must be established in an action brought under s. 742.011. (Only in Senate Bill: the Department of Revenue may establish an administrative support order as provided by Section 409.2563.)
Fla. Stat. 744.301 – Natural Guardians: The mother of a child born out of wedlock and a father who has paternity established under s. 742.011 or s. 742.10 are the natural guardians of the child and are entitled and subject to the rights and responsibilities of parents. If a father has not established paternity under s. 742.011 or s. 742.10, the mother of a child born out of wedlock is the natural guardian of the child and is entitled to primary residential care and custody of the child unless the court enters an order stating otherwise.
VII. CHILD SUPPORT REVISIONS TO DEPOSITORY
Fla. Section 61.046(4) – Revision of the definition of “Depository:” A depository established by the clerk of the circuit court in each county.
Authorizes deferral of support payments for obligor’s good faith job training efforts; removes exceptions relating to incarceration when establishing or modifying support order; authorizes child’s caregiver to provide affidavit or written declaration regarding putative father.
For the past eight years I have exclusively practiced family mediations, following my 18-year career in litigation. With my combined experience and expertise I am able to help both attorneys and parties tackle the challenging issues, work through the options and achieve an amicable outcome.