Divorce-Law Reforms Pass Florida Legislature, But Women's and Lawyer's Groups Urge Governor to Veto

The measure would end permanent alimony and establish a presumption of equal rights in child custody disputes.


Evan Delshaw/Flickr

Florida lawmakers are attempting to reform the state's divorce laws, but they face opposition from the state bar association and women's advocacy groups. A bill that recently cleared the state legislature and is headed to Republican Gov. Rick Scott would enact a slew of alimony and child-custody law reforms, including ending permanent alimony, providing judges with a new formula to use in determining alimony payments agreements if a receiving partner starts making more money or gets a new "supportive" spouse, and declaring that all child-custody decisions should start with a presumption of equal custody.

The measure, Senate Bill (SB) 668, is similar to alimony-law reforms vetoed by Scott in 2014. But the wording of that bill could have allowed the retroactive altering of existing alimony settlements; the new proposal has corrected this. It's a child custody section of the measure that is now causing trouble. The Florida Bar Association's Family Law Section opposes the establishment of any baseline legal presumption in custody cases. It's "urging the governor to veto Senate Bill 668 because on several levels it's problematic," Maria Gonzalez, chair of the Family Law Section, told the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

"It does not serve the best interest of the children, any presumption," she said. 

[…] Gonzalez said the lawyers object to another provision that requires a judge to file written findings on the child-sharing plan. She said such findings could result in public court records on the intimate details of family life.

"All kinds of very specific, detailed findings will now unfortunately have to be included in a final judgment," Gonzalez said. "And that is detrimental to families. It's not in the best interest of children to have a final judgment air all of the family dynamics in written findings."

Advocates of the reforms say family lawyers' worries are unfounded. Despite the presumption of equal custody, judges will still have discretion to deviate from this based on array of individual circumstances.  

"Behind-the-scenes lobbying is expected to be heavy on Scott's final decision," the Herald Tribune reports

The Florida chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) has also been opposing the divorce-law reforms, calling them "anti-family" and "bad for Florida women." In a Facebook post urging people to get in touch with the governor's office to oppose SB 668, Florida NOW called the custody-sharing part of the reform package an "egregious injustice." 

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  1. NOW calls it anti-family? Well then they ought to outlaw divorce.

    Or are they accidentally saying they don’t think women collecting alimony will remarry because then they’d lose the free money they’re getting?

    1. I think they’re saying that equality under the law is bad for women.

      1. Women are more equal than men.

        1. It depends. Men and women will be treated as equal when it suits women’s interests, and men and women will be treated differently when it suits women’s interests. That’s really all there is to it. Yet somehow “Teh Patriarchy” is supposedly the dominant culture.

    2. Child support and alimony. Shack up with new BF (the old chief judge of the 16th Circuit in IL used to call them “paramours”) and enjoy life.

      1. The child support stays the same even if they remarry. It also stays the same if the man leaves his job and can only find a lower paying one. Of course, it can be modified by the state’s DCSS if the woman petitions it due to a lower paying job.

        Oh, and a man cannot be away his parental rights (economically) without the consent of the woman and of the state. He has no choice but to metaphorically carry that child for 18 years…or 22 if the female says she wants him to pay for half of the child’s college and the judge consents to the demand.

        1. or 22 if the female says she wants him to pay for half of the child’s college and the judge consents to the demand

          That one always really got me – you can refuse to pay for your kid’s college if you are married, but not if you’re divorced.

          1. The one that drives me nuts is when the divorcing parties agree to a fixed amount of child support when they separate…only to have a judge tell the man two years later that he owes close to $20,000 in back support the day their divorce decree is finalized because their agreement isn’t legally binding and that he also owes nearly $750 a month more than they agreed to for the next 15 years.

            Oh yeah, and results of that ruling are:
            the man’s credit is ruined because he has a super-lien against him for the back support he was previously unaware of.
            He cannot get a passport until the amount is paid in full.
            The state can arbitrarily seize any assets in his bank account and apply it to the back support.

            1. I have a pretty amazing solution for all of this–wait for it–don’t get state married.

              1. How does that matter? The state refused to recognize a contract she and I consentually entered into upon dissolving our relationship. Plus, Virginia confers common-law status on you after a period of time anyway. And if you want any parental rights, you have to acknowledge your child on their birth certificate.*

                *Of course, it can be thrust upon you if the woman says you are the father and has your name put on it anyway. With a very small window of time to contest the paternity lest it be granted permanence…and you have to pay for any DNA tests to be performed by their very small list of approved agencies.

              2. But they’ll still get you if you have kids.

                1. I have a pretty amazing solution for that too–wait for it–don’t have kids.

                  1. But what if you get raped by a sexy alien?

            2. And to top it off, the amount doesn’t change when the female remarries someone that makes well over $120k a year working for the government, moves across the country and forces the man to take a lower paying job 2500 miles away from his professional network if he wants to see the kids more than a few weeks in the summer.

              1. I’m starting to think there might be a personal angle to your complaints.

                Not that they aren’t all valid and well made.

                1. I’m just pointing out the facts as they pertained to my case. But I am in no way alone and have not embellished the facts in any way.

                  1. I know a few people with similar stories (and at least one person around here has even worse). It’s a good thing to know about. Too many people seem to just sort of assume that family court more or less gets it right and think that people complaining about how men are treated are just knuckle dragging, bitter MRA dicks.

        2. On what basis do you, with your pro-life viewpoint, oppose those child support rules? I mean, I oppose them strongly, but only because the mistake is to carry the kid to term, and that mistake is only ever the mom’s.

          1. I’m merely pointing out the hypocrisy in them.

            Also, because I’m a believer in free association and am not a fan of slavery. Because forcing someone to pay for the decisions of another person is slavery. Especially when non-compliance results in them being imprisoned.

            1. Right, but you don’t think there’s a “decision” involved. At least, if you do, it’s the decision not to murder, which is very different from the decision to do something irresponsible and frivolous.

              1. I said I’m merely pointing out the hypocrisy. A woman can “choose” to end the life, thus ending her association with the child. The man has no “choice” to end his association with the child, and the extent of his association is completely decided by the decisions of another person.

                Her irresponsibility or frivolousness only carries consequences for her based on her decisions. His carries consequences also based solely on her decisions. Where is the fairness in that? His free will is removed because the ability for him to even financially rectify his irresponsible behavior has been eliminated. He takes no part in the decision-making process of whether the child lives or dies…and the person that is able to make that decision can also make the decision to force him to pay for that child for 18-22 years.

                It,is impossible to square “pro choice” with “pro forced child support” without being a hypocrite.

                1. Um…dude…don’t get her pregnant in the first place. You have the power to do this. You can get a vasectomy. You can wear a condom. You can be careful and make sure you bang someone who won’t fuck you over using the power of the state. All these things are in your quiver before you even get busy.

                  1. Got it. So if I make a “mistake”, I lose the right to decide whether or not to financially support a third party for 18 years. But if the woman makes a “mistake”,she can sever that relationship pretty much any time she wants to without any financial repercussions. She can even go so far as to sever the relationship by terminating the third party up to a certain point of time.

                    In what world does this even seem remotely fair?

                    1. In what world does this even seem remotely fair?

                      Life isn’t fair, dude. You sound like a SJW college student. You know the steel trap is out there, but you allowed yourself to make a mistake in it anyway. Yeah, it sucks, but you’d laugh and ridicule someone who did something stupid like jump off a moving car, yet you want to be given special consideration for doing something equivalent? Why?

                    2. I sound like a SJW because I believe in equal protection and rights to free association?

                      And a better analogy would be me laughing equally at two people: one that jumped off a moving car and the person they dragged with them against their will.

                      I wouldn’t be laughing.

                      You know when I mean “fair,” I mean just. We’ve been around each other long enough
                      To know that “fair” doesn’t mean I want to steal what others have. And I’m not asking for special consideration…unless you consider treating men and women equally when a woman becomes pregnant “special”

                    3. I know what you mean, it just seems odd to me that you consider “I banged a woman without protection and she got pregnant and now I have to pay money” equivalent with “I decided to do something stupid with a car and then got hurt”. Having sex isn’t stupid. Having sex that can easily result in pregnancy with someone who might fuck you over *is* fucking stupid. It’s absolutely not the equivalent of being “dragged by a car against your will”. Because you 100% got in that car–and the possibility of being dragged–of your own accord.

                      Your personal responsibility starts at the very beginning. Shitty stuff can happen afterward, and that may be unfair and fucked up, but so is life, and you need to be careful. Quite simply, just ensure you cannot get her pregnant, and don’t get married, and you won’t have to deal with any of this shit, ever.

                    4. Epi, you still Haven’t addressed my question: how is it fair that the man and woman involved in the pregnancy/child have different levels of recourse both at the outset and in an ongoing basis? The woman can sever her relationship at her sole discretion. The man cannot, under penalty of imprisonment.

                      Does this square in any way with equal protection? Or free association? A simple yes or no will do.

                    5. Both the mother and father should be held responsible. It’s the women who are being left off the hook by being allowed to terminate her choice.

                2. No one is trying to square those two things. I’m pro choice and anti child support. But you’re pro life and anti child support.

                  You misunderstand my point about irresponsibility. I consider the decision to carry to term inherently irresponsible.

                  But you view it as a moral requirement. That somehow you’re not a part of anymore. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

                  1. I consider the decision to carry to term inherently irresponsible.

                    How do you jibe this with being a human being? Do you believe humanity should end within one generation? I mean, you’re a pretty smart person. How can you believe something so obviously insane?

                    1. How do you jibe this with being a human being?

                      Because Nikki’s philosophical take on the matter is kinda like Otto in A Fish Called Wanda believing that the central message of Buddhism is “every man for himself”.

                      I mean, you’re a pretty smart person.

                      No, she’s really not.

                  2. But you view it as a moral requirement. That somehow you’re not a part of anymore. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

                    I view carrying the child to term a moral requirement. I never said either party should be held financially responsible for its continued well-being.

                    By the way, a woman can drop a child at any hospital or fire station and abandon it without repercussion. What is the financial equivalent for a father?

                    1. Okay, so in that case would you support a requirement for prenatal support, assuming the correct choice is the woman surrendering the baby for adoption?

                      And yes, I am in favor of humanity ending, along with all sentient life and thus all suffering.

                    2. And yes, I am in favor of humanity ending, along with all sentient life and thus all suffering

                      Speak only for yourself. Some of us enjoy life and love our spouses and kids.

                    3. She did speak only for herself, which is why she said “I am in favor”. Why does this frighten you so much?

                    4. I doubt it frightens any of us.

                      Why would replying to it make you think it frightens us? Did you only reply to my comments above because they frighten you?

                    5. I’m not frightened. Why would I be? I just see a bitter, tormented soul projecting her own angst onto others. See her reply as evidence:

                      That you love your kids won’t stop them from suffering for decades and dying in pain

                      What I find interesting is that both of you claim that the man can avoid entanglement in dreaded parenthood by refusing to engage in sex and marriage while, in other comment threads, refusing to hold women to the same standards by supporting abortion on demand with no stipulation. IOW, men are stupid for engaging in sex and marriage, but women are somehow not to be held responsible for the same choices.

                      As a chronic pain sufferer I can assure you that life is not diminished by pain but actually enhanced. Similarly, despite the costs, frustration and pain of parenthood, I’d do it again because it adds a dimension to life that I didn’t have before. Our children are both adopted, so we went out of our way to become parents–it didn’t just happen to us. And this makes me happy that at least two mothers didn’t abort their children.

                      As much as I dislike pain and suffering, I see them as part of life’s experience. Perhaps I’m more accepting of it because I have more of it. Or maybe I’ve learned that life is in the total experience, not just in the pleasures. It’s a philosophical distinction to be sure. But harassing Sloopy because he had the audacity to have children is a bit nihilistic.

                    6. You got it – abortion is all about evading responsibility.

                    7. That you love your kids won’t stop them from suffering for decades and dying in pain.

                    8. Lol. Oh Nikki. You truly are sad to behold.

                      Yes there is sadness in the world. But there’s also happiness. Experiencing both is a wonder and makes us better as individuals and as a species. Humanity is the greatest thing in the universe. And whether you
                      Believe in God or not, the continuation of our species is the greatest thing imaginable.

                    9. It’s great for you that you feel that way. I feel it’s one of the worse things imaginable. And there’s a non-negligible chance additional humans will feel the way I do, which is not a moral responsibility I’d like to take on.

                      Also, seriously, when people say shit like this to me it just sounds like they have Stockholm Syndrome.

                    10. Being a mostly happy human being that values life is Stockholm Syndrome?

                      Lol. You’ve got to be trolling. That’s so completely irrational and idiotic it can’t be serious.

                    11. And yes, I am in favor of humanity ending, along with all sentient life and thus all suffering.

                      Are there no razors where you are? No guns? No ropes or tall buildings? No ovens? No pharmaceuticals?

                      Or do you want someone to do it for you?

                      Something quick and painless? Or something that affirms your worldview, with enough pain and suffering to harass you into oblivion?

                      Why, Nikki, do you not take the course you advocate for everyone else?


                      Because it’s a lie. It’s a contrived cynical pose, drenched in nihilism and despair.

                      You don’t want everyone dead–you want a nice audience to hear your incessant whining about the ‘suffering’ that is life.

                    12. You are a 30 odd year old woman who hasn’t emotionally matured beyond teenaged nihilism. The reason you are so fucking miserable, Nikki, is because you are aimless. You live a meaningless life that you’ve made little effort to improve. Do yourself a favor, quit your easy job, stop spending your life dicking around on the Internet and work up the corporate latter. Or take on a charitable cause or a libertarian one or something. Just do something with yourself and stop bringing your misery on to the rest of us.

                    13. In that case I would support prenatal support
                      To get the child to term, whereby each parent could continue to choose whether or not to Maintain parental rights and responsibilities in an ongoing manner. Which is basically what the female enjoys now but the man doesn’t.

                      That’s called fairness. Compelling one party in all aspects of the child’s life (the man) while
                      giving total autonomy to theories party (the woman) is the opposite of fairness.

                    14. “And yes, I am in favor of humanity ending, along with all sentient life and thus all suffering.”

                      Y’know, if that was even remotely true I know how you can start the process Nikki. I can guarantee you that after you start with yourself that everyone will follow suit. Is that good enough for you to follow through with that obviously untrue statement? Somehow I doubt it.

                    15. And yes, I am in favor of humanity ending, along with all sentient life and thus all suffering.

                      Again, I ask, if life is so bad, why haven’t you ended yours?

            2. Unfortunately, you live in a world run by slavers. You know how fucked the system is. Why would you ever enter into it? Why would you give the fuckers that extra power over you?

              1. Why would you ever enter into it?

                And why would you drag more people into it?

                1. Personally I find life pretty enjoyable and my daughter seems to as well. If you don’t I’m not sure why you remain alive. (I’m glad that you do! I just don’t get it.)

          2. Even if abortion were 100% outlawed, a woman would still be able to put her baby up for adoption, ending all her responsibilities toward the kid. She can even do so anonymously. It would only be sauce-for-gander justice to let a man legally do the same, allowing him to end all responsibilities toward a baby he fathered.

            1. I assume you mean allow him to do the same after contributing prenatal support for 40 weeks.

              1. A right that a man doesn’t have but a woman does, by the way.

    3. Look, everyone knows that equality before the law only bends one way. It’s only fair that a woman who lives purely off the income of a man receive a share of that income even after she’s decided to leave him because the amount of spending money he places in her wallet each check is insufficient for her personal lifestyle.

      Or are you on the side of that there Patriarchy that apparently is more willing to cannibalize the ‘true’ controlling gender of men than it is the permanent underclass of women that it represses?

      Don’t worry, Nikki will be here soon to tell us that the Patriarchy is really something other than Patriarchy.

  2. She said such findings could result in public court records on the intimate details of family life.

    Ask Jack and Jeri Ryan.

    1. And we ended up with Obama as a result. So we know what kind of damage this can do.

    2. I cancelled my Chicago Tribune subscription over that one.

    3. (perks up)

      Did someone say Jeri Ryan?

        1. I’d take her to a swingers club, if you know what I mean.

        2. +1 would,would

        3. Jeri has done other things than that. And has looked great in all of them.

          1. Look at you, defending her honor. Well, she never wrestled Jolene Blalock.

            1. I can only thank you for putting that image in my head.

            2. I’ll be in my bunk.

            3. I always preferred Linda Park. But,can’t go wrong with any choice there.

              1. Janeway all the way

    4. Pretty sure there’s an easy legislative fix to seal those records until the kids are adults. If they haven’t figured out by the age of 18 that their divorcing parents were capable of being assholes then they have a litany of life lessons to learn.

      1. Another option is to anonymise the reports. It’s what we do in Australia. It means you get the reasoning / any precedential value of the decision freely available, but not the names.

  3. “”Behind-the-scenes lobbying” sounds horrible in pretty much every way possible.

    1. We did not have any of that before Citizens United!

  4. The Florida chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) has also been opposing the divorce-law reforms, calling them “anti-family” and “bad for Florida women.” In a Facebook post urging people to get in touch with the governor’s office to oppose SB 668, Florida NOW called the custody-sharing part of the reform package an “egregious injustice.”

    Yes, yes, assuming that men have equal parental rights is quite the injustice. Amazing that people actually take these lunatics seriously.

    1. First assets forfeiture reform in FL and now this.
      /cautiously optimistic

  5. OT: I don’t know this author, or this publication…but this is a nice, bitter screed re: Teh Trump.

    1. “The culture that first made Trump wasn’t the one that goes hunting on weekends, or the one that’s been reborn in Christ. It was the culture of celebrity for its own sake, of kidding-but-not-kidding-but-maybe-really-kidding, a culture of materialism and greed, too forgiving of fame and too prone to taking nauseating crassness as just another act; a culture with delusions of its own moral faultlessness and its ability to control whatever conversation it’s begun, ever-tempted by the idea that absolutely everybody must see irony where we see it, that it’s all politics as usual, and whatever happens, Vanity Fair will cover it all with the same, slightly distanced knowingness, in between the ads for expensive watches and luxury cars.”

      Well done.

      1. Somehow none of that ever made me think it was fun to mock physically disabled people though.

        1. I took the author’s point to largely be more of “we could stand this guy because he was either good for our checkbooks or swilled the same champagne as us but that was when – in our estimable and high-minded judgment – he was just a clown on our little island kingdom…now this clown has found a gang of rubes to follow him AND HE’S DANGEROUS.”

          Some of the comments are uber-derp (like that fascism is the natural progression from capitalism).

          1. That’s probably true of some media figures, for sure.

          2. Well…while fascism isn’t the natural progression from capitalism it is at least considered that authoritarianism naturally progresses from democracy.

    2. Trump is basically an older, male incarnation of a Kardashian.

      1. So, First Lady Caitlyn then?

  6. The chick holding up the sign is obviously pissed she got stuck with custody.

  7. “all child-custody decisions should start with a presumption of equal custody.”
    “”It does not serve the best interest of the children, any presumption,” she said.”
    So, instead of getting rid of the presumption by starting at equal ground, it’s better to keep women as the default because any presumption doesn’t serve the best interest of the children? It’s the same argument that the presumption of innocence is unfair to rape victims. It all comes from the presumption that men are all horrible people by default.

    1. Well considering that so many divorced men are cisgendered shitlords…

    2. I had the same reaction at first, but I think what the bar association means is do not assume any custody arrangement as the default, including equal custody. So they are not saying that women’s custody should be considered the default. Maybe some lawyer can chime in on this.

      If I were in charge of the bill, I would consider this a friendly amendment.

  8. The mask ended up in the trash ages ago.

  9. Oh so feminists don’t believe in equality after all? It’s almost as if people have been saying this for decades.

  10. Their apparent insistence here that women are uniquely suited to child rearing (can’t think of any other justification for the presumption in favor of the woman for child custody), would seem not to line up perfectly with the notion that women must be equally represented and paid in all kinds of employment. I’m just speculating, but I’d think that more divorced fathers with primary custody of children would help to even out the representation of the sexes in high power, well paid jobs.

  11. They don’t care about money as much as they care about vengeance.

  12. Maria Gonzalez, chair of the Family Law Section, told the Sarasota Herald Tribune.
    “It does not serve the best interest of the children, any presumption,” she said.

    Anybody can make an unsubstantiated assertion, especially if one is not so burdened with the sense of responsibility for providing actual proof.

    Gonzalez said the lawyers object to another provision that requires a judge to file written findings on the child-sharing plan. She said such findings could result in public court records on the intimate details of family life.

    Ha! Oh, please. Tell that to the Duggards. There’s no way the lawyers are being serious about ‘privacy’ when it comes to government.

  13. Florida does have some of the stupidest divorce laws.

    I met a guy who lived in Florida.

    The wife stayed with him just long enough to quality for alimony for life. When the date hit, she said “See you, sucker, and I’ll take that alimony, too, forever.”

    He was a landscaper.

    She left him and took the kids, so that he’s 40-something, sending her child support and alimony, while he’s trying to start a new family over with whatever he had left.


  14. Governor Rick Scott should sign SB 668 into law.

    Four years ago, my ex-wife and I divorced. She petitioned for permanent alimony. Fair is fair, we were married for 18 years.

    Currently I am paying $1000 per month, HALF of my Social Security Disability Income, as permanent alimony to my ex-spouse. My ex-spouse is a healthy, educated and employed PHYSICIAN.

    She receives HALF of my Social Security Disability Income. Meanwhile, my ex-spouse pays ME less than $100 per month child support. This is not nearly fair.

    Current alimony laws are extremely inequitable. Child support is formula based and time limited, but alimony amounts and durations are at the whim of the judge.

    The same judge who awarded me child support until our son is 18, awarded my physician ex-wife permanent alimony despite her greater income.

    Alimony discourages both the payor and recipient from working, achieving their potential or remarriage. Temporary assistance is certainly needed by some to transition from married to single, but it must be equitable and certainly not permanent.

    This is a fairness issue, not a man/woman issue, not a rich/poor issue, not a young/old issue and not a black/white issue. Men and women are equally able to work in today’s society and equally able to pay alimony. Our society has changed and so must our laws.

    1. awarded my physician ex-wife permanent alimony despite her greater income.

      That just makes no sense. Was her income greater when you divorced? If so, why the hell isn’t she paying you alimony?

  15. As a most likely perma-bachelor I don’t even have an opinion on this stuff. But the political discourse on it (in these comments for instance) seems very heated, as if it were all one giant divorce and custody battle being litigated by all the divorcees in America.

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