Men’s Equality in Family Court to Wait Another Year
FLORIDA – Ask anyone who has experienced a divorce or child custody battle within Florida’s Family Court system and at least one side will tell you that they got a raw deal. For years, Fathers Rights Activists have fought for the courts to treat men as equals when it comes to time sharing with children. But despite overwhelming progress with women and LGBT rights, men say the pendulum has swung too far, and now they’re being left in the dark ages of equality.
Alimony is another area of heated debate in family courts and in recent months both issues reached Lawmakers in Tallahassee for proposed reform.
Last September, Senator Tom Lee (R-Brandon) filed Senate Bill 250 which contained language that would direct judges to use guidelines based on the duration of a marriage and income, when calculating alimony. If the measure were to pass it would essentially put an end to permanent and bridge-the-gap alimony.
Lee later amended the Bill to include language that would create a presumption 50/50 time sharing by both parents, believing that it is in the best interest of the children.
While Senator Lee’s Bill began jumping Committee hoops, a House Bill sponsored by Lakeland Republican Representative Colleen Burton opened the door for both issues to be addressed together.
HB 455 echoed Senator Lee’s proposal to bring timeshare equality into family court and put an end to the presumption that mothers should always have majority timeshare from the onset of a custody battle.
Unfortunately, for those who supported the radical change, on March 15th Governor Rick Scott vetoed the combined proposal, HB 668, putting an end to the debate for another year.
Attorney Howard Iken, a long-time legal contributor for RNRF, posted a list of opponents and supporters to the Bill. Rep. Colleen Burton (R), Rep. George Moraitis (R), Rep. Kathleen Passidomo (R), and Democrat Senator Kelli Stargel all supported reform. On the flip side, Democratic Representatives Lori Berman, Cynthia Stafford, Dwight Dudley, along with Democratic Senators Darren Soto, Arthenia Joyner, and Gwen Marogolis all opposed the move for equality.
We spoke to Representative Blaise Ingoglia regarding the failed measure who said he supported Scott’s Veto. Ingoglia says “I originally voted yes on the alimony reform Bill but when it was amended to include the timesharing premise and sent back over to the house, I voted against it.” When asked why he opposed the timesharing element, Ingoglia said “I do not think it was in the best of the children and I believe it would lead to more litigation in the courts and rip families apart.”
Although this was a major blow to the father’s rights movement, supporters vow to return to Tallahassee again next year to continue their fight.
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