Parenting plan bill that skip courts, lifts court overload gets unilateral support in Senate committee

Happy girl holding hands of her parents

A bill heard by a Florida Senate committee Monday seeks to streamline the process of setting up a parenting plan for unmarried parents, according to its sponsor.

The proposal in the Senate’s Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee – SB 590 – was introduced by its lead author, Sen. Jeff Brandes, with members voting in the end to forward the bill.

After that, the bill still must go through several more committees, then heard on the floor of the Statehouse before it becomes law.

The bill looks to authorize the Florida Department of Revenue to establish parenting time plans agreed to by both parents under Title IV-D child support actions of the Social Security Act, as permitted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (Title Iv-D is a federal public welfare program that took effect in 1975. It is a conduit for states to enforce child support programs on parent’s delinquent in such responsibilities, etc.)

“The bottom line is that this bill is not just about money, it’s about spending quality time with kids,” Brandes told the committee.

He was asked what costs the bill would incur to the state, responding there would be a one-time, non-recurring cost of $419,000, with annual recurring costs of $20,000.

“It’s a very economical way for kids to see their dads,” Brandes said.

Brandes’ bill also looks to encourage frequent contact between a child and a parent, or parents, for the positive development of children.

The committee peppered the senator with questions, with one came from Sen. Victor Torres, vice-chair of the committee, who wondered whether it affected parents who lived in other states or under nontraditional conditions. He also mentioned he thought it might need a little tweaking before a vote on the floor of the Florida Senate.

Brandes said if a child is under 3-years old, or if one of the parents has committed a crime – like not paying child support or having been convicted of domestic violence – then the custodial parent wouldn’t have to agree to a parenting plan.

In the event the parents can’t agree on a parenting time plan, they would be referred to a circuit court in their district for the establishment of a program. In these instances, parents wouldn’t pay a fee to file a petition to determine a parenting time plan.

The bill would go into effect Jan. 1, 2018.

It has long been agreed upon by child development experts and those in the psychiatric communities that closer parent-child relationships can often lead to emotional and behavioral stability in adulthood, and overall better mental health, according to the online journal Psychology Today.

The article also noted when parents and children fall out of timing with each other, either of the parties may become mentally distressed.

However, there was a voice of dissent.

Beth Luna, a Jacksonville-based attorney who spoke to the committee about her opposition to the measure, said it SB 590 needs improvements.

“It’s a long-standing policy of this state to do what’s best for a child,” Luna said. “You just can’t implement a plan that’s a one size fits all approach. … Not every child is the same. A child at 16 or 17 is going to be different than a child who is 3 or 4 – the same goes for a special needs child.”

All parenting plans are approved in Family Court in the state of Florida.

Her concerns elicited a host of questions by the committee members, who considered her viewpoint.

But in the end, there was unanimous support for Brandes’ bill.

Les Neuhaus

Les Neuhaus is an all-platform journalist, with specialties in print reporting and writing. In addition to Florida Politics, he freelances as a general-assignment and breaking-news reporter for most of the major national daily newspapers, along with a host of digital media, and a human rights group. A former foreign correspondent across Africa and Asia, including the Middle East, Les covered a multitude of high-profile events in chronically-unstable nations. He’s a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, in which he served as a Security Policeman, and graduated from the University of Tennessee with a B.A. in political science. He is a proud father to his daughter and enjoys spending time with his family.


  • Trisha Marks-Brooks

    March 6, 2017 at 6:40 pm

    There should be an automatic 50/50 time share unless one parent can be proven unfit..i.e. Crime and not crime meaning child support, but meaning drugs, etc. As far as child support goes each parent pays for what the child needs while in their own home. If a parent cannot afford the child on their own then the other parent should hold more time. Period. Many mothers rape the men of their finances and make great fathers visitors. I do not believe in child support period. The money my husband pays for child support is allowed for the child to spend $400 on one pair of shoes…with that states it only shows that child who’s mother makes what more than my husband does not need the support…meanwhile we struggle. I am sick of the rigging too of mothers being allowed to make false allegations against the fathers or withhold the child from the fathers…Marie or not.

  • Robert Johnson

    March 6, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    In my situation I have custody of my three children, and my children’s mother has little to do with our kids by her choices. She owes around $40,000 dollars in back child support. This is a crime, and I believe she should be held accountable as a “dead beat” dad would be. I like the clause in this bill that list not paying child support as a crime allowing the custodial parent to refuse a parenting plan. If she payed her child support my family could live without government assistance via food stamps, and state funded Medicaid.

  • Leon

    March 6, 2017 at 10:32 pm

    Why is 50/50 not the automatic go to?

  • Glen Gibellina

    March 6, 2017 at 11:06 pm

    Brandes said if a child is under 3-years old, or if one of the parents has committed a crime – like not paying child support
    Jeff let me remind you we have not had Debtor’s prisons and that in fact were abolished in the United States in 1833
    Yet good parents are thrown in Jail daily for fail to pay
    Lets not forget Parental Alienation……. In honor to be recognized by this County for our efforts to expose Parental Alienation in the 12th Judicial Courts and throughout the State. 22 million are affected by this injustice. Why Dads Matter and Danica Jones with Kids Need Both hope to make a difference for generations to come &

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Drew Dixon, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.

Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704