TALLAHASSEE (NSF) – Proponents of an alimony overhaul scurried during the final hours of the legislative session Friday to come up with a way to protect the plan — entangled with a parenting component — from a possible veto by Gov. Rick Scott.READ MORE: Half Of Fort Lauderdale High-Rises Without Sprinklers
But powerful House Rules Chairman Ritch Workman late in the day abandoned the effort, in part because he lacked the support of House Democrats.
The House and Senate during the past week gave final approval to a long-debated overhaul of the state’s alimony laws. But the veto concerns stem from part of the bill (SB 668) dealing with how much time children should spend with their divorced parents.
Workman on Friday considered putting the alimony reform language onto a separate family-law measure, approved by the Senate but never heard by a House committee. Such a move would provide another way to pass alimony reform without it getting jeopardized by the child time-sharing issue.
“There was concern bubbling up from the plaza level that the governor isn’t convinced about the time-sharing component,” Workman, R-Melbourne, said late Friday afternoon. “We wanted to give him two options.”
The procedural maneuvering to take up the Senate bill so late in the session would have required the House waiving rules. It would have required a two-thirds vote from the chamber, something Workman said he didn’t want to do without the endorsement of Democrats, even though Republicans hold a supermajority in the House. The Senate also would have had to take up the amended version of the bill and pass it.
“We don’t have the consensus to bring up the bill,” Workman said.READ MORE: South Miami Police Chief Rene Landa Alarmed By New Report About Covid-19 And Officers
The alimony measure, ready to be sent to Scott, sets out a formula for judges to use when deciding alimony payments. It also includes the child time-sharing component, which affects the amount of child-support payments.
The child time-sharing issue was at the center of an acrimonious dispute between Workman and Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee, R-Brandon, that caused a similar plan to die last year in the Legislature. Lee pushed to include the time-sharing issue, while Workman wanted it left out.
But during the final weeks of this year’s session, Lee and Workman reached a compromise that did away with a proposed legal presumption that children would spend their time equally between both parents. Instead, judges would “begin with the premise that a minor child should spend approximately equal amounts of time with each parent” before considering other factors.
The alimony portion of the bill, years in the making, had the support of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar and alimony reform advocates, once bitterly divided over the issue. The Family Law Section, however, has opposed the child-sharing proposal.
Under the bill, the duration of alimony payments would be based on the number of years of marriage, while the amount of the payments would rely on a couple’s gross income — the higher earner’s salary minus the earnings of the spouse seeking alimony.
The measure does not include a retroactivity provision that in part prompted Scott’s veto of an alimony-reform bill three years ago, but critics contend that the revamped proposal could still be retroactive because the new guidelines would apply to people seeking modifications to their payments.MORE NEWS: Video Helps Identify Accused Porch Pirate In Fort Lauderdale, Suspect May Be Part Of Organized Ring
The News Service of Florida’s Dara Kam contributed to this report.