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Family law attorneys blast alimony, child custody bill headed to Governor’s desk

Family law attorneys are blasting a sweeping overhaul of Florida’s divorce laws, saying they hope Gov. Rick Scott will veto SB 668.

The measure does away with lifetime alimony in the state. Instead, the amount and duration of alimony would be determined by a formula.

“It’s really going to affect women in a negative way,” said Jacksonville family law attorney Heather Quick.

“It will be financially detrimental to so many women who’ve been in a long-term marriage. Say they’ve been married over 20 years, and the wife has stayed at home and supported her husband, now, they’ll be in a situation where they won’t receive permanent alimony even though the husband may still be working and receiving substantial income,” Quick told WJCT.

In addition to the alimony flap, the piece of legislation that’s generated the most controversy is the component that would now require family law judges to begin with a “premise” that children split time equally between both parents.

The chairwoman of The Florida Bar’s Family Law section, Maria Gonzalez, has urged opponents of the time-sharing portion of SB 668 to contact Scott. She posted this on Facebook:

“Yesterday, late amendments were made to pending legislation relating to a ’50/50′ timesharing bill which passed the Senate Appropriations Committee. The Family Law Section continues to oppose SB 668 because it contains a presumption that a 50/50 timesharing schedule is in the best interests of every child. The bill also requires detailed findings of fact in every case absent an agreement of the parents and violates the Section’s standing positions and public policy. I have attached a copy of the bill for your reference – please read it. Despite the Section’s efforts to work with sponsors of this bill and provide compromise language, we believe the current proposed language (or similar presumptive language) may nevertheless be approved by the House and thereafter proceed to the Governor in short order.”

Quick echoed those sentiments:

“The system we have now considers the best interest of the children, and that’s what it should be. This completely removes that from the law. We need judges to look at all the evidence and consider what’s in the best interest of the child on a case-by-case basis.”

However, the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland, said this week that the legislation “will make circumstances a little bit easier during a really emotional and trying time for families.”

Scott vetoed a similar measure two years ago.

Written By

In addition to her work writing for Florida Politics, Melissa Ross also hosts and produces WJCT’s First Coast Connect, the Jacksonville NPR/PBS station’s flagship local call-in public affairs radio program. The show has won four national awards from Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). First Coast Connect was also recognized in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 as Best Local Radio Show by Folio Weekly’s “Best Of Jax” Readers Poll and Melissa has also been recognized as Folio Weekly’s Best Local Radio Personality. As executive producer of The 904: Shadow on the Sunshine State, Melissa and WJCT received an Emmy in the “Documentary” category at the 2011 Suncoast Emmy Awards. The 904 examined Jacksonville’s status as Florida’s murder capital. During her years in broadcast television, Melissa picked up three additional Emmys for news and feature reporting. Melissa came to WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. Married with two children, Melissa is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism/Communications. She can be reached at

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