December 29, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Two years ago, the Florida Legislature overwhelmingly passed a shared parenting bill that would have greatly improved a child’s chances of spending significant time with both parents following their divorce. The bill received over 70% of the House vote and about 65% of the vote in the Senate. Divorce lawyers in the state adamantly opposed the bill and Governor Rick Scott vetoed it.
Now we see the type of “family court reform” that’s acceptable to the lawyers and Scott. He signed into law Senate Bill 590 about which this article is quite enthusiastic (WLRN, 12/28/17).
A new Florida law aims to streamline parenting plans for unmarried parents.
On January 1, the state's Department of Revenue will have the authority to provide parents with a proposed Standard Parenting Time Plan.
The plan would determine, among other things, where the child will live and how parental responsibility shall be shared.
Legislators say the ultimate goal of the law is to promote contact between non-custodial parents and their children.
And now for some facts.
What SB 590 actually does is give the Department of Revenue the power to tell parents involved in a Title IV-D case that they can establish a parenting plan if they want and, if they don’t, can accept the one on offer by SB 590. So, when Mom receives some form of welfare benefits, e.g. from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the state is required by federal law to get reimbursement from Dad. Mom is then encouraged to tell authorities who Dad is, but, as we’ve seen many times in the past, if she doesn’t give them the right man, nothing will happen to her. For Title IV-D authorities (in the case of Florida, that’s the Department of Revenue), any man will do.
The purpose of all that is not only to reimburse the state, but also to establish ongoing child support from Dad to Mom. Having established his obligations, the state grants him the right to see his kid occasionally.
That’s where SB 590 comes in. Instead of having to go to court to get a parenting time order, a process that takes time and money, the new law requires the Department to tell the parents that they can agree on a parenting time plan and it’ll be enforceable. If they can’t devise one of their own, the bill spells out a parenting time plan.
But of course there’s a catch. The catch for dads is that Mom needn’t agree to either type of plan. Both types come into operation only if both parents agree. That gives Mom veto power over Dad’s ability to see his kid. Now of course he can hire a lawyer, go to court and get the judge to order a parenting plan. That would be hunky-dory if the father can pay the court and lawyer’s fees, but these are Title IV-D cases, i.e. they involve people on welfare who obviously have little in the way of financial resources.
Stated another way, SB 590 announces its support for both parents having frequent contact with their children.
It is also the public policy of this state to encourage frequent contact between a child and each parent to optimize the development of a close and continuing relationship between each parent and the child.
But the reality is that it gives Mom absolute power over Dad’s ability to do so.
And, just in case we were confused about the matter, the Standard Parenting Plan established by SB 590 clarifies it. It allows the non-custodial parent less than 22% of the time with his child, i.e. the exact plan in effect in courts across the country and the English-speaking world, the exact plan that’s proven so detrimental to children’s well-being. That’s supposed to be “frequent contact” that will “optimize” close relations between parent and child. That’s what’s considered good enough for poor children in Florida.
That’s the bill that got the support of the lawyers and the signature of Rick Scott.
National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization
National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved? Here’s how:
Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.
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