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Paul Rice Comments on Alimony, Child Custody Bill

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See Paul Rice’s comments further down
in the article.

lists conditions to guide judges on deciding how much time the children spend with each parent.

The bill, whose House sponsor is Colleen Burton and Senate sponsor is Kelli Stargel,
both Republicans from Lakeland, would take effect Oct. 1 and run the economics and emo­tion of divorce through a formula on the length and amount.

Senator Dorothy L. Hukill, a Republican from Port Orange, was the lone area vote against the bill. She said the bill has problems, including that its alimony formula uses gross income, even though one parent might spend more on the child than the other. Hukill questioned the need for the presumption of the 50-50 time share since she said there is no presump­tion now for or against one parent or the other.

“It’s a very delicate situation you are dealing with when you are talking about children and being able to raise children and move on after a divorce,” Hukill said. “I just have lots of concerns” A spouse requesting alimony now must demonstrate a need and then an analysis is done of both spouses’ income and expenses. The judge can set a wide range of alimony, from none to a very high amount.

The formula would calculate the low end on the duration of alimony by multiplying 0.25 times the years of the marriage. The high would be 0.75 times the years of the marriage. No alimony would be given for a marriage of two years or less although a judge could overrule that.

The low end of the ali­mony amount would be calculated by multiplying 0.015 times the years of the marriage times the difference between the monthly gross income of the husband and wife. The high end would be the same except that 0.020 would be used instead of 0.015.

The bill contains an amendment by Sen. Tom Lee, a Brandon Repub­lican, stating that time sharing with children is presumed at approximately half and half for divorcing couples. The judge would then consider a number of conditions to decide if the proportion should be changed, such as the parents’ “moral fitness,” mental and physical health and how often a parent would leave the child with a non­relative on evenings and weekends.

The alimony bill would reduce the number of disputes going to trial, said Paul Rice, of Rice and Rose. Alimony has been the leading issue leading to trials in family law over the past five years, said Rice, who is the chair of the Family Law Section of the Volusia County Bar Association.
“We have had guidelines in the child support area for some 15 years now,” Rose said in a phone interview. “The result of guidelines is that it enables attorneys to settle cases, because we don’t have to argue about what the child support would be.”
The guidelines provide predictability, prevent a bad outcome and facilitate settlements, Rice said.
“Alimony isn’t just paid by men anymore. The times they are a-chang­ing,” Rice said. “I’ve had several cases recently where the wife was the one that paid the alimony.”

Rice said the time-sharing portion of the bill only sets a “premise” of 50-50, not a “presumption.” He said that’s a big difference because a presumption would have required sig­nificant reasons for a judge to go against the 50-50 time share.

The 50-50 shared parenting was applauded by Dr. Ned Holstein, founder and president of the National Parents Organization, according to a press release. The press release stated that grow­ing evidence shows that shared parenting is best for the children.
“Millions of American children are suffering from the outmoded practices of the family courts of awarding custody to just one parent, with only a few days per month of parenting time with the other parent. This custody model is not in the best interest of most children,” Holstein said in the press release.

Sanders of Florida NOW said the bill would be unfair to women, who make up the majority of stay-at-home parents. The state Legislature has passed the bill without any economic analysis and has pushed it through along party line votes with the Republicans voting in favor, the press release said.

“This bill is not about parents,” Sanders said in an interview. “It’s about wealthy ex-spouses trying to cut their losses with their former families.”

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