Florida Reform Hangs in the Balance --- Act Now

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April 8, 2016

NPO Logo National Parents Organization improves the lives of children and strengthens society by protecting every child's right to the love and care of both parents after separation or divorce. We seek better lives for children through family court reform that establishes equal rights and responsibilities for fathers and mothers.
Florida Bar’s Family Law Section Skirts Truth About Opposition to Shared Parenting
By Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The Outcome Is Up to You

Alimony and custody reform in Florida hang in the balance at this very moment. The Legislature has passed a good bill, and now we wait to see if Governor Scott will sign it.

This may be your last, best chance to get meaningful reform in Florida. The only question is who is more motivated: the people of Florida or the special interests and their high-paid lobbyists. Make no mistake, the lobbyists are leaving no stone unturned to kill this bill. If we cannot muster the energy to make one simple phone call, we don't deserve to get reform. But how about the kids -- don't they deserve your phone call?

Make Your Voice Heard!

SB 668 is now on Governor Rick Scott’s desk. The time for action is now! Email him at [email protected] or telephone him at 850-488-7146 and tell him to sign SB 668. If you flood his office, we will win! if not, we will lose! It's that simple.

Do it today! Then get three members of your family or your friends to make the same call!

After you have made your call, read further to understand the lies and deceptions the special interests are using to defeat this bill.

Contrary to its representations to its membership and the press, the Family Law Section (FLS) of the Florida Bar has been aware of and deeply involved in the progress of SB 668 (alimony and parenting time reform) since at least January of this year. One hundred pages of emails among the Legislation Committee and the Executive Committee of the FLS received for the first time by the National Parents Organization reveal almost constant lobbying efforts against reform and weekly updates from paid FLS lobbyists.

As I reported here, the FLS told the Daily Business Review, that language on parenting time had been slipped into the bill at the last moment. In fact, as early as January 28th, FLS member Tom Sasser reported to the Legislation Committee that there were four alimony reform bills before the legislature and that each one included a provision for 50/50 parenting time.

And yet, as late as April 2nd, the FLS was telling the Daily Business Review this:

The Florida Bar's family law section made an unprecedented decision to hire emergency lobbyists after its top-priority bill to overhaul the alimony system picked up a major unrelated amendment that was intolerable.

The section hired two high-profile lobbyists for $105,000 on the last day of the legislative session to press the governor to veto the bill the section helped draft.

Not only was the FLS fully aware of the terms of all legislation affecting alimony and parenting time, throughout the legislative session, the claim that it hired additional lobbyists on the last day of the session is far from the truth. In fact, among the documents received by NPO are the contracts for the two lobbying firms signed by the FLS. That happened on March 4th, one week prior to the end of the session.

Indeed, those same documents include the minutes of meetings of the Legislation Committee that took place on January 28th, February 5th, 8th, 12th, 19th, 26th, March 4th and 11th. At each of those the committee took information and discussed the progress of alimony and parenting time reform. Much of the information was provided by one of its two regular paid lobbyists, Nelson Diaz.

In short, the suggestion, made to the Daily Business Review, that the Family Law Section had been blindsided by a last-minute secret change to SB 668 is untrue.

FLS No Better to its Members than to the Press

Perhaps more amazingly, the Legislation Committee, not content with misrepresenting SB 668 to the press and the public, did the same to its own members. The emails obtained by the National Parents Organization reveal a losing battle on the part of the FLS and its rising concern with each new turn of events against its position. That finally resulted in the decision to, having failed in the state House and Senate, lobby Governor Rick Scott to veto the bill.

Accordingly, a “blast” email was sent out to all FLS members telling them that the “game plan” was to “flood the governor with emails and phone calls” encouraging him to veto SB 668. The email blast that was explicitly approved by the General Counsel to the Florida Bar, frankly misrepresented the terms of SB 668.

For example, the email blast stated that, if SB 668 becomes law, it will require family court judges to make written findings of fact “in every case absent the agreement of the parents.” That is not true. In fact, the language in the bill makes it clear that, in all cases in which the parents agree and in 50/50 parenting time cases, the court need make no findings of fact. And, since the overwhelming majority of custody cases are agreed to by the parents, the onus placed on judges of making findings of fact will be slight.

Then there’s the email blast’s claim that SB 668 is a “50/50 timesharing bill.” As even the FLS lawyers can figure out, the 50/50 provision is only a “premise” from which judges must start in deciding parenting time. There are then 20 different criteria that already exist in Florida law that the judge must consider before issuing a parenting time order.

So the FLS is asking its members to bombard Governor Scott with, to say the least, inaccurate information.

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Recent NPO Blog Posts

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Rachel Alexander: ‘Shared Parenting is a Mental Health Issue’

Rachel Alexander to Florida Governor Scott: ‘Sign Alimony and Custody Reform’

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