Florida Senate Rules Committee set to hear family law bills

Proposals could change alimony, custody agreements


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Two new proposals could change the way family law is handled in Florida. 

Senate Bill 718 and House Bill 231 would eliminate permanent alimony in most Florida cases and limit the alimony to half the length of marriage.

The proposed law would also split time with children equally between the two parents.

The legislation is drawing critics.

"They will destabilize families and send many of them into poverty," said Ashley Myers, a family law attorney.

Myers argues the new bills would create a one size fits all approach to family law. Meanwhile, attorney Keith Leigh says the measures would create a level playing field in a system that has long been biased toward women.

"What's that old song? 'She got the gold mine, I got the shaft?'" said Leigh. "Everybody knows in family law that the women have the edge going in."

"It creates a rebuttable presumption that a 50/50 timesharing is in the best interest of every child, in every circumstance regardless of their age, developmental needs, special needs," said Myers.  

The changes would also be retroactive, which allow settlement agreements to be reopened and modified, meaning every contract that is currently set can change. 

"It send a message to the public that you may not reasonably rely on your own contracts or court orders when making irrevocable life decisions," said Myers.

"It could potentially be a great victory for equality. The only people it would be bad for are people who have been living unfairly, living on alimony," said Leigh.

Regardless of what is decided by lawmakers, Leigh says the measures set the foundation for a more balanced application of family law. 

"I do believe it's a huge first step to show people that, listen to these dads who aren't involved in lives because of judicial interference; we're not going to sit back and take it anymore," said Leigh. 

The Senate Rules Committee is scheduled to hear the bills starting at 9 a.m. on Thursday.