2017 Legislative Session Preview: Child Support Rears its Head

Brace yourself for a rumble: Lawmakers will return to the thorny issue of child support in the 2017 legislative session.

Accompanying legislation tabled in the House and Senate aims to revise the state’s child support law to tighten the standards by which child support is provided and amended. And this despite unsuccessful attempts in recent years.

None of the bills had a hearing in the committee weeks leading up to this year’s session, which begins Tuesday.

Given its history, the effort promises to be one of the most contentious the Legislature will consider this year, and both sides are primed for battle. Last year, a roaring fight sparked outside Gov. Rick Scottas reform advocates shouted down those opposed to the bill.

In short, ex-spouses who wrote the checks have said that alimony or “forever alimony” in particular is not fair to them. Her exes have shot back that they shouldn’t be punished, for example after they stayed home to raise the kids and then struggled to get back to work.

That First Wives advocacy group calls this year’s legislation “unilateral, unfair and harmful to Florida families, particularly women and children.” Proponents say the measures will not be retroactive; these ex-spouse advocates disagree.

“As written, the legislation will retroactively manipulate thousands of previous divorces, giving payers a virtual replay at the recipient’s expense,” the group said in a statement. “During their divorces, many women sacrificed fair distribution for the security of a permanent alimony.

“This legislation would result in (the alimony payers) requesting a change upon retirement, regardless of prior agreement, need and ability to pay,” the group adds. “It’s clearly not fair.”

but Alan Fresherchairman of National Parent Organization of Floridacalled “the concept of permanent alimony…obsolete in today’s society.”

“Alimony recipients these days have some responsibility to make a living after divorce,” he said.

The 2017 bills “would provide predictability and consistency for everyone, plus divorcing spouses would be able to settle their financial differences out of court instead of spending countless dollars on wasteful litigation,” added Frisher.

This year’s measures (HB283, SB412) do not address child custody provisions ScottDisadvantage in 2016.

He failed legislation because it had the potential to “put a parent’s desires ahead of the best interests of the child by creating a premise of equal sharing of time”. veto letter said.

Family law-related bills have had trouble getting Scott’s signature, despite years of lawmakers trying to change the way Florida courts award child support payments.

In 2013, Scott vetoed an earlier attempt to change the child support law because, he said, “it applies retrospectively, thus manipulating the fixed economic expectations of many Floridians who have experienced divorce.” He added that “retrospectively adjusting alimony payments could lead to unfair, unexpected results.”

Among other things, the current legislation includes a guideline stating that when calculating compensation, judges should consider the “ex-spouse’s accomplishments in the other party’s household, childcare, education and career development.”

A judge may go beyond the proposed amount of alimony “only if the court considers all of the factors … and makes specific written findings on the relevant factors that” justify the variance.

representative Colleen Burtona Lakeland Republican, carries the House bills and Sen. Kathleen Passidomoa Republican from Naples, sponsors his Senate counterpart.

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