Rick Scott vetoes contentious alimony bill

divorce alimony reform (Large)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has vetoed a controversial alimony reform bill, saying in his veto letter the legislation had the potential to put the “wants of a parent before the child’s best interest.”

The bill was the last one sent to the governor, and is the final bill of the 2016 legislative session he needed to take action on. The Naples Republican signed two other bills — a bill dealing with mental health and substance abuse and another streamlining the process for veterans to receive benefits — into law Friday.

In his veto letter, Scott commended the bill’s sponsors — Sens. Tom Lee and Kelli Stargel, and Reps. Colleen Burton and Ritch Workman — for their efforts to reform the state’s divorce and alimony laws. However, Scott expressed concerns that the legislation would have an adverse effect on children.

“Current law directs a judge to consider the needs and interests of the children first when determining a parenting plan and time-sharing schedule,” said Scott in his letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner. “This bill has the potential to upend that policy in favor of putting the wants of a parent before the child’s best interest by creating a premise of equal time sharing.”

Scott said the state’s judges “must consider each family’s unique situation and abilities and put the best interests of the child above all else.”

The bill passed the Senate 24-14, before clearing the House on a 74-38 vote. Among other things, the legislation would have created a legal premise for child custody plans that said children should spend equal time with each parent. Under the proposed legislation, judges would have still had the latitude to decide custody questions after a divorce.

“In the end, Rick Scott is a family values conservative, and this was the right choice to protect children and their primary caretaker,” said Brian Burgess, a media relations consultant who urged Scott to veto the bill, in a statement Friday.

That provision is what led the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar to lobby for a veto. The group had initially backed this year’s proposal.

“We are very pleased that, with his veto of SB 668, Governor Scott has done the right thing by putting Florida’s children first,” said John Giotis, chairman of the Florida Council for Safe Communities, in a statement.” Divorce is always a very difficult situation, and this bill would have put its most vulnerable victims, children, at risk. We sincerely hope that, going forward, any reforms to Florida family law will put the best interests of Florida children above all other concerns.”

The Governor’s Office received more than 11,000 emails and phone calls about the proposal. About 80 percent of those messages were from supporters.

Scott acknowledged the contentious nature of the measure in his veto letter, saying the revisions “evoked passionate reactions from thousands of Floridians because divorce affects families in many different ways.”

In a statement Friday, Workman said he was disappointed the governor decided to veto the bill, but understood his reasons

“The governor’s message is clear; we must tackle each issue in family law separately rather than lumping them all together,” said Workman. “I am committed to reforming these issues. Next session I intend to facilitate individual bills regarding alimony payments, child custody and other family law issues. The system has long been in need of significant overall and Florida families deserve consistency and fairness in their divorce proceedings.”

The bill also would have changed the way Florida judges could award alimony. The measure would have allowed the courts to reduce alimony payments if there was a “substantial change in circumstance.” That could mean the person paying the alimony becomes unemployed or reaches the age to receive full Social Security benefits.

Scott vetoed an attempt to modify the alimony law in 2013. At the time, he said it tampered with the “settled economic expectations of many Floridians who have experienced divorce.”

Lee said he met with the governor’s staff on numerous occasions to assure them he was committed to addressing those concerns. However, Lee said no specific concerns were articulated to him beyond the those expressed in the 2013 veto message.

Scott did not address financial portion of the bill in his veto letter, focusing only on the child custody portion.

“As a husband, father, and grandfather, I understand the importance of family and the sensitivity and passion that comes with the subject of family law,” said Scott in his veto letter. “Family law issues are very personal, and nearly every family comes to the court with different circumstances and needs. As such, we must be judicious and carefully consider the long term and real life repercussions on Florida families.”

In a statement, Lee called Scott’s veto message vague and said it “does nothing to further illuminate the Governor’s concerns.”

“Specifically, the veto message focuses exclusively on potential outcomes, without giving reasons for how the legislation could actually result in those outcomes,” said Lee in a statement. “Current law is clear that the best interest of the children remains paramount and it is the primary responsibility of judges to make a determination based on 20 factors listed in current law. Senate Bill 668 does nothing to change the primary role of the court, which is to do what is in the best interest of the children.”

Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster


  • John Grisham

    April 15, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    Here’s the part of Governor Scott’s veto letter that he left out. The Governor’s legal aids advised him not to include this language.

    ” As someone who has received political contributions from family law attorneys, I could not let down my friends at the Family Law Section. As someone who has been helped in the past by the lobbyists hired by the Family Law Section of the Florid aBar, I could not let down down lobbyists who will help me in my future endeavors. As someone with a daughter who is going through a divorce, I could not jeopardize my daughter from getting permanent alimony and 100% custody of her children. As someone who thinks that Judges’ decisions must be honored before the decisions of good parents. I could not let down my friends of the Court. And as someone who has the power of God to turn down the will of the people, to tun down the will of elected officials that represent the people of Florida, I hereby VETO SB 668. “

    • John J. C.

      April 15, 2016 at 10:04 pm

      The current alimony and child custody laws were created for a reason. These laws are fair; leaving the divorced couple with equivalent finances. The governor demonstrated great integrity in his decision to veto this bill.

      • tb

        April 16, 2016 at 10:26 pm

        Joan, fair you say? lifetime alimony for a healthy woman who lives in our house with her boyfriend, works a couple a days a week and goes on multiple vacations. you must be one of the leeches.

  • Jacob

    April 15, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    This is the reason why nothing will ever change. Whatever my advice to all of the guys out there is to keep on cohabitating with your girlfriends. Let the marriage rate continue to go down. These politicians don’t care about anyone, but themselves. His wife probably told him to not sign the bill. I hope that he knows that he’s the least liked governor in the history of this state. He will never get voted into the Senate. He’s trying to follow the path of Charlie Christ.

  • Cassandra B.

    April 15, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    Thank you, governor Scott, for ignoring what is best for children, and slapping fathers in the face. This is absolutely ridiculous! Fathers should NOT have to prove they’re fit parents if mothers don’t. Most fathers I know are much better parents than mothers.

    Way to set our children back, and hurt them more.

    You’ve failed children & families!

  • Julian montoya

    April 15, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    Family is the first social environment that God has placed children in!, The Christ was given to the blessed virgin and her betrothed or fiance Joseph! ,angels were sent to explain this birth and prophecy has told of the event for years!, 3 wise men brought gifts!,the government wanted 2 year old boys and under put to death!,todays government even wants them younger to put to death they cover it up by calling it “abortion”,the system of family courts rewards women by teaching them its ok to give virginity away before marriage, then the system will award the sin! How they call it “alimony” or “child support “, the athority God has given the priest and officer of the home ,the society has given it away and reversed the scriptures! Men need to repent! ,they need to kneel and ask for forgiveness and pray for wisdom to no longer belong to a family structure that rewards women money for having sex! :”promoting prostitution “, the system claims the woman has had sex that lead to a child,and since that took place the need money! They put men out to work for society and force men to pay for his child’s mom to have sex with other men!…while they teach those kids evolution and athiesm and darwinism in the public school system!…all those who know a government leader ask them if they believe in God? Does thise of the white house and congress have faith in God? Do they believe in governing the citizens according to the will of God ? Or the will of the devil? Or their own will?….I choose God! And i pray all others who read this will choose God!,and ask your church leaders and members to write to the white house and congress and ask them to choose God! Open the bible and read the will of God!,amen! Write to the white house and department of education at 1600 Pennsylvania ave Washington DC. …and ask all those citizens of the usa to choose God above evolution, darwinism, or athiesm or the will of evil and the devil, choose the bible to be distributed to all!…,what would Jesus do? What did Moses do? What did the prophet Daniel and kings David do?…what did Noah do? What did Jonah do? What will your church leader and government do?…what did the apostles and roman leaders do ,in the book of acts?

  • Mike Irey

    April 15, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    That you that there are term limits and that Governor Scott is term limited. Imposing his views on the people of the state of Florida is not what elected officials are for. Certainly children should be the most important thing to take care of, but the bill would have allowed for that. It only said that you start with the presumption of 50/50. The Judge would have the liberty to rule otherwise based on the situation. Once again the personal interests of the Governor and the Florida Bar win. Again, thank goodness for term limits

  • Michael Beasley

    April 15, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    If you are thinking of getting divorced in Florida, know that you can end up paying permanent alimony. And if you have children and you’re a man, good luck in trying to get shared custody. I know someone who moved to Texas were the alimony laws are fair and up-to-date, established residency in that state, and then filed for divorce there.
    I also heard of several people that have just left the country so they can retire and not have to pay permanent alimony for life. So much for Governor Scott’s “get back to work” program; Governor Scott is forcing people to leave Florida.

  • Josh

    April 15, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    Wow i been fighti g for a year for my children what makes a woman better then a man she just out for the money do u kno what my children go through its been over 6 weeks since i seen them because of this

  • Bryan

    April 15, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    God, I can only hope that the good citizens of Florida have the resolve to get him out of office for his support for the violation of human rights, by not giving the citizens what is demanded, and by hiding behind the idea that the best interest of the child is not in the best interest of the citizen.

  • Kento

    April 15, 2016 at 4:24 pm

    “The best interest of the children”… All research shows children that have equal parenting are better off. Your decision wasn’t for the children, it was for the women’s groups and ” family” court lawyers. If you can’t agree that the default decision in custody cases should be 50/50 physical, you don’t care about children.

  • James Markus

    April 15, 2016 at 7:24 pm

    What about no children involved. X living with someone not married. Collecting alimony that can support herself. And judge favors her boo hoo, I need alimony.

  • ted mahala

    April 15, 2016 at 7:54 pm

    To say Rick Scott is a Fin loser would be under satement, the people have spoken but he was paid off he should be in jail. Hope next govenor has balls because scott does not.

  • Florida laws are terrible

    April 16, 2016 at 6:32 am

    Every situation is different. I as a woman can’t get more than half custody and my ex wants to come after a teacher salary because he quit his job. Did I mention he’s the one that left?! Or that he thinks it’s no big deal to have his girl “friend” around my 3 year old son?! Sometimes 50-50 is just the selfishness of one parent not doing what’s best for the child.


    April 16, 2016 at 8:47 am

    I have to say I don’t believe a 50/50 presumption is right. Too many Judges making snap decisions. You are mom so you get 50%. You are dad so you get 50%. Being a parent is a privilege and you should establish you have earned that privilege and that being with you 50% of the time is what is best for your child. Let me be clear. Often, the father is the better parent and should have majority time sharing. It’s not a man / woman thing. It is a better parent thing. It drives me crazy to see a parent that has never bothered. Has no clue who the child’s teachers or doctors are. Doesn’t contribute. Everything of course is the other parents fault, because s/he is apparently able to parent equally, but can’t go to the school and get info on their child. I absolutely agree, all things being equal, children are better off having two parents equally, but don’t just hand out that privilege so that an absent parent can pay less child support. How many single parents don’t seek child support these days from the fear that a parent who has never cared will be handed equal custody to avoid child support? And make no mistake, it may not be in the statute, but it’s what’s happening every day. I have no problem with 50/50. I have no problem with dad receiving majority time sharing if he’s the better parent. However, making 50/50 the statutory starting point is dangerous. Again, not a man/woman issue, but an issue as to who is the involved, loving parent.

    • Jack Smith

      April 16, 2016 at 12:36 pm

      Being a parent is a right, a constitutionally and God-given right. I remember your crazy comments on other venues. Thankfully being a Governor is not.

    • Factsoverfeelings

      April 20, 2016 at 7:13 am

      Do you realize that this bill would still have given the judges the opportunity to make adjustments based on the situation? 50/50 wasn’t guaranteed, just a starting point. Current law has no presumption, but in practice, feels like 100/0.

  • Emily Reis-ElBara

    April 16, 2016 at 10:44 am

    ugh, really?
    (and yeah that sums up my comment.)

  • 100% Disabled Vet

    April 16, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    Brian Burgese is nothing but bought and paid for Yellow Journalist.Thank you Governor. Thank you Brian. I now look forward to a final hearing with my cheating wife and, most likely will lose a significant portion of my non-income 100% VA disability and medical military retirement. It’s ok because I might be able to retire in a VA home.

  • vernon askegard

    April 16, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    The comments made by those opposing SB668 make it clear they are not quoting from the bill and probably have not read it. They are reacting to the spin put on it by people , including the governor. The bill does not change any of the factors about award of child support. In fact the judge must consider the 20 factors listed in the present unchanged portion of the statute 61.13. section 3. Please read and quote from the bill not what the spin people, including the Florida Bar put out. The veto is against the will of the citizens.

  • Dadzrites

    April 17, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    Rick Scott is your typical scumbag attorney pandering to the BAR, especially the Family Law Bar, working for the best interest of the BAR, instead of We The People. “Family values…consider the needs and interests of the children first when determining a parenting plan and time-sharing schedule,” who are you kidding Scott?

    Governor Scott committed treason and sedition by vetoing this bill that would uphold the constitutional rights of parents, children and families.

  • Chris Gordon

    April 18, 2016 at 9:18 am

    Worst Florida Governor in my life time. He padded attorneys pockets, let family court corruption continue. Men are very much discriminated in America. Fathers are parents too. My quest for equal rights as a man and parent will continue even if our current Governor hating on men.

  • Scott Norder

    April 18, 2016 at 2:13 pm

    Dear Governor,

    What Floridians, Americans and markets want is predictability and transparency. When you as Governor fail to advise your legislature on your issues with pending legislation, you do yourself and your state a disservice. Your citizenry and its representatives overwhelming passed legislation modernizing Florida’s divorce laws which you reported had been consulted on without issue. Yet you vetoed the same.
    It is this behavior that reeks of special interest influence which so inflames the American public. You should be ashamed.
    As for “protecting the interests of the children,” shouldn’t that start with the assumption that both parents are good parents? Remember innocent until proven guilty? Due process? The current laws literally remove a divorcing father’s right to parent his children without due process. We expect better from our elected officials.

  • Chris, divorced dad

    April 18, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    Obviously, the path to reform is voting Scott out.

  • Connie Bennett

    April 18, 2016 at 10:49 pm

    I’ll never support Scott again for anything!

  • David DeRosa

    April 19, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    For all you women that support this you married him you had kids with him more than one kid and you know what sometimes like when you do business okay you get burnt before all of us good Dads because you chose to marry a dirtbag we should no longer suffer the time has come that fathers are protected okay and that comes first protecting you from the scumbags you married is your business you do it you hired a lawyer to protect you okay but automatically us father should have our rights

Comments are closed.


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