The controversial divorce reform bill vetoed by Governor Scott in May of 2013 promised sweeping changes to both alimony and child custody laws in the Florida. While the law was not enacted, its proponents plan to continue fighting for it in some form during the next legislative session. For individuals planning to divorce who are concerned about what passage of this law might mean, it is essential to remember that, at least in terms of child custody, the reform bill would make very little practical difference.
What the bill promises about child custody reform
You can read the relevant passages of Senate Bill 718 here, but in a nutshell, the bill would add language to section 61.13 of the Florida Statutes to make a strong presumption for equal time-sharing in child custody rulings. Essentially, the bill seeks to require family judges, outside of compelling circumstances, to award equal child custody rights to both parents following their divorce.
The best interests of the child
Nothing in Senate Bill 718 will change the fact that Florida family courts will and should always establish child custody or time-sharing rulings based on the best interests of the child. When making this determination, the court considers factors such as:
The stability of each home environment
Any history of abuse or neglect in the home of either parent
The physical, emotional and mental health of each parent
The ability of each parent to encourage and support a relationship between the child and the other parent
The wishes of the child, if the child is old enough
No child custody reform would effectively alter these guidelines.