The Family Law Division of the Florida Bar Association wants Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto the 2022 legislation that would bring about dramatic changes to the state’s child support law, and the sooner the better. Attorneys in this section of the Bar say pending divorce and custody lawsuits have stalled and are piling up.
As of Friday noon, state lawmakers had yet to send the bill to DeSantis for action. He can approve, reject or put the bill into effect without his signature.
Senate Bill 1796 was passed by the Legislature on March 9th. Former Gov. Rick Scott vetoed similar child support legislation in 2013 and again in 2016.
Florida Bar News reported Thursday that while SB 1796 remains in abeyance, pending divorce and custody lawsuits are beginning to clog the courts.
“The current uncertainty is affecting many pending cases and creating a backlog,” said Tampa Judge Philip Wartenberg, chair-elect of the Bar Association’s Family Law Division, the Florida Bar Association’s publication reported.
The elements of the bill, sponsored by GOP Senator Joe Gruters of Sarasota County and part of Charlotte County and Florida Republican Party Chairman, include:
/ Elimination of maintenance for the future and retrospectively and
/ a legal presumption that divorcing parents share custody of their children 50/50, which also informs how much child support parents pay their ex-spouses
/ Elimination of adultery as a factor in determining alimony.
The Florida Bar Association’s Family Law Division and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers helped negotiate compromise bills in the annual child support law feud that year, but Gruters overturned that bill late in regular session and replaced it with the one that eventually did was accepted.
The Family Law Section and AAML oppose provisions in the Replacement Act that allow retiring spouses to retroactively waive agreements, sometimes decades-old, to pay permanent child support to their ex-wives or ex-husbands. The attorneys’ compromise draft would have abolished alimony only in future divorces.
Those attorneys told Phoenix in March they also oppose the 50/50 child custody rule, which would particularly pressure women who would rather sacrifice child support than primary custody of their children.
“I worry about the mom giving up other things, like financial relief, that her household desperately needs just to secure the right timeshare,” Wartenberg told Phoenix in mid-March. “There’s this concern that people will come asking for as much time-sharing as possible so it might reduce child support payments.”
The ex-husbands behind SB 1796 want permanent alimony payments in future settlements and end them retroactively — including a steep phasing out of payments when they reach retirement age.
“This codifies the right to annuity,” Marc Johnson, chairman of Florida Family Fairness, which campaigns to end permanent child support, said in a mid-March interview.
Penni Silverman, who lives in The Villages, said Friday that she and other Republican women in that community are just learning about the bill, are alarmed and demand that DeSantis veto it if he wants her support in a future election.
“Retroactivity is going to affect seniors and especially women in The Villages, and that’s its base,” Silverman said. “It would do us a great disservice if he didn’t veto it.” Silverman said her ex-husband requested that their 1990 divorce settlement be amended to drop the permanent alimony they had agreed to in exchange for it that she does not get a share in the couple’s business. If SB 1796 is enacted, she said, she and other ex-wives will find themselves in financial trouble.
Jan Killilea of Palm Beach County organized a First Wives First club a decade ago in response to a “Second Wives” campaign to relieve husbands of child support obligations to ex-spouses. She and other “first wives” have struggled for years against child support agreements, often made decades ago.
“In particular, this legislation will harm elderly women who, by agreement between the parties, have withdrawn from career opportunities to raise their children, putting them at financial risk,” Killilea said via text message on Friday.