Should Both Parents Have Equal Time With Their Children?
An opinion piece in the Naples Daily News talks about the other side of the current alimony bill in front of Governor Scott Walker. The primary focus of the bill is to adjust how Florida handles alimony, but a small section also affects time-sharing agreements for parents.
The bill would require courts to make an assumption when drawing up parenting plans. The assumption is that both parents should have equal time with the child, also known as shared parenting, unless there are circumstances that show that it is detrimental to the child for a parent to have equal time. Several states have already adopted this policy as part of their laws.
If the law were to go through, it will open the doors for a renegotiation of parenting plans and child support payments. Child support amounts are closely linked in Florida law to the amount of time spent with the child. Spending more time results in lower payments.
The opinion piece states that 70% of the public supports shared parenting plans, then goes on to attack liberals, feminists, and bar associations for trying to block measures like these for various political or financial reasons. These establishment groups, according to the author of the piece, are more interested in keeping the status quo despite public support for shared parenting. The Florida Bar, in particular, is accused of wanting this bill vetoed because it could speed up the time it takes for divorce cases to work through the courts. This would mean less money for the industry.
Ultimately, at least for this bill, it is up to the governor to decide if the courts should adopt that assumption or not. If it doesn’t pass, the alimony portion, which has high popularity, will likely get introduced again in a separate bill at a later session.
It is the court’s job to interpret the laws and apply them fairly when cases are brought before it. Sometimes lawmakers lay assumptions down on the courts that they must comply with. One example of this is mandatory minimum sentencing laws for criminal cases, but others exist like the one that’s in this bill.
When something like this is codified in a bill, it keeps the courts from making nuanced decisions based on the facts at hand. Our system of checks and balances has a way of fighting back. Laws can get overturned by going through the legal system to the Florida Supreme Court. When something is proven to be unconstitutional in practice, the courts can overturn it.
Another way people can change the laws, and frankly an easier one, is to convince lawmakers to change laws that are unpopular. According to the author, the statistics are in favor of the new language, but until we see it in practice in the state of Florida we won’t know for sure if it helps children or not.