Amid emotional outcry Gov. Rick Scott vetoes alimony bill

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Florida governor’s mansion and state capitol building. Credit MGN

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Wading once again into an emotionally contentious debate, Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Friday vetoed a bill that would have ended permanent alimony payments and would have urged judges to enforce equal time-sharing with children of divorcing parents.

Scott rejected the bill amid an acrimonious debate that included supporters and opponents of the bill yelling at each other in the lobby of the governor’s office this week. His office has received thousands of phone calls over the measure.

Three years ago Scott vetoed a similar bill and backers of the bill tried to make changes to win his support this time around.

But the Republican governor in his veto message said he was troubled by the proposed child custody changes.

“Current law directs a judge to consider the needs and interests of the child first when determining a parent plan,” Scott wrote. “This bill has the potential to up-end that policy in favor of putting the wants of a parent before the child’s best interest by creating a premise of equal time-sharing. Our judges must consider each family’s unique situation and abilities and put the best interests of the child above all else.”

A divided Florida Legislature passed the bill in March after a passionate debate during which members relayed their own experiences with divorce.

The final bill (SB 668) replaced permanent alimony with formulas based on the length of the marriage and the spouses’ incomes to set the amount and duration of the payments. Those supporting this change called the current system unfair and said they would have to continue to work past retirement age in order to meet their alimony obligations.

But opponents asserted that the wording of the bill would have a dramatic impact on the lives of former spouses, most of them female, who had stayed at home to care for children and could not easily re-enter the workforce.

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