"He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help." ~ Abraham Lincoln


The "distance between parental residences" exception will encourage mothers to move away and, in other cases, is utterly subject to the discretion of the Judge.

Location: County of Miami Dade: Family Court Services, 175 Northwest 1st Avenue #1503, Miami, FL 33128, USA

Florida Bill Establishes Presumption of Equally-Shared Parenting

But allow me to say “Oops!” Oh, I got the alimony bill right, but a couple of readers have pointed out something to me. The bill that passed also would establish a presumption of equal parenting in the Sunshine State! Those provisions are buried in half a page of the 28-page bill. Here’s how they read:
Equal time-sharing of a minor child by both parents is presumed to be in the best interests of the child unless the court finds that:

a. The safety, well-being and physical and mental and emotional health of the child would be endangered by equal time-sharing, that visitation would be presumed detrimental consistent with s. 39.0139 (3), or that supervised visitation is appropriate, if any is appropriate;

b. Clear and convincing evidence of extenuating circumstances justify a departure from equal time-sharing and the court makes written findings justifying the departure from equal time-sharing;
c. A parent is incarcerated;
d. The distance between parental residences makes equal time-sharing impracticable;

e. A parent does not request at least 50% time-sharing; or

f. There is evidence of domestic violence.
That’s the sum of the equal parenting part of House Bill 231 that overwhelmingly passed.

Now, each of those exceptions can block a father’s bid for equal time, but only the last one seems to have much utility in that regard. For example, (a) requires all items – endangerment to the safety, well-being, physical, mental and emotional health – to be found by the court in order to deny equal parenting time. That’s a very high bar to clear, to say the least.

The second exception is vague (what are “extenuating circumstances”?) in the extreme, plus it requires them to be established by clear and convincing evidence, plus it requires the judge to make written findings, something judges don’t usually like to do.

Incarceration is pretty cut and dried, although what will happen if the incarcerated parent is just about to get out of prison when the order is signed isn’t clear.

The distance between parental residences exception will encourage mothers to move away and, in other cases, is utterly subject to the discretion of the judge. I would argue that House Bill 231 clearly enunciates a legislative preference for equal parenting, so judges should err on the side of that arrangement. So if parents live too far apart to make, say, weekly handoffs practicable, maybe two-week residences with each parent would make more sense. If the parents are too far apart for one of them to get the child to school every day, then equal parenting, or close to it, can be achieved by having the child with one parent during all holidays and the summer. However it’s worked out in individual cases, judges should be aware of the strong legislative language supporting equal parenting and act to get as close to that as possible.

Of course the real weasel words are found in (f), the exception for domestic violence. Sadly, on its face, that exception allows a judge to order less than equal time-sharing if there is any evidence of domestic violence. The evidence doesn’t have to be good or even believable. It can be clearly rebutted. It can be presented for the sole reason of invoking exception (f). It can be the unsupported claim of one parent alone. As the bill is written, any of those types of “evidence” could be interpreted by a judge as invalidating a child’s right to equal time with each parent.

Needless to say, (f) gives me pause. But if I were a lawyer trying to get equal time for my client, and the other party claimed the domestic violence exception, I would argue that the legislature never intended to be as cavalier about that exception as I indicated in my previous paragraph. Again I’d point out that the obvious purpose of the bill is the presumption of equal parenting and to rebut that you have to produce real evidence of real violence. I’d point to the next section of the law that requires that the parent have been convicted of a first degree (or higher) misdemeanor domestic violence for a court to order non-shared parenting. It only makes sense to read the new section and the one following it together. Otherwise a judge would be effectively invalidating the second section of the law.

Will this bill pass the state Senate? We’ll see. But if it does, it’ll be a great leap forward for fathers’ rights to their children and children’s rights to their fathers.

Source Reference

"Not long ago I did a piece on House Bill 231 in Florida that just passed the House of Representatives by a landslide vote of 85 – 31. If enacted into law, it would drastically alter alimony in the state, among other things putting an end to lifetime alimony. That of course was good news to ex-husbands and ex-husbands-to-be throughout the state."

 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

For the second time in a year, a governor has vetoed an equal parenting bill. Last year it was Governor Mark Dayton of Minnesota who vetoed a bill that was 13 years in the making and that had finally gotten the approval of both houses of the state legislature. In so doing, Dayton behaved as if the bill were completely new and needed further study. In fact, he was just caving in to the demands of the family law bar.
Now it's Governor Rick Scott's turn in Florida. The bill, that included both equal parenting and an overhaul of the state's antiquated alimony laws had received the overwhelming approval of the Senate, whose vote was 29-11 and the House that voted 85 - 31 in favor of the reforms. The bill passed last week and Scott could have vetoed it at any time, but he waited until literally the last day to do so. In Florida, when the legislature is in session, a governor has seven days in which to exercise his veto. If that time passes without his action, the measure becomes law.
So Scott took the entire seven days and then vetoed the bill. Why? Well, following his Wednesday veto, the legislature was only in session two more days. The original vote tallies strongly indicated the possibility of an override of his veto. That only required a two-thirds majority to do, and more members than that had already voted in favor of the bill. So it looked like a vote to override was a sure thing. But with only two days left and other things on the legislative plate, the leadership announced on Thursday that nothing would be done on the alimony and parenting bill. Scott of course had been counting on that all along.
Now, Scott wrote a letter purporting to explain his veto. Read about it here (Fox News, 5/2/13).

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