By Attorney Howard Iken: First an explanation of my position on new laws: I neither opposed nor supported the new law. My professional position was to anticipate the law and plan on how it could benefit or hurt my existing clients. Any time a big change is coming up in family law statutes or rules there are incredible consequences for each and every client. Negotiating positions change and plans for court action or settlement shift according to how the new law will impact each situation. During the last couple of months I discussed the new law with clients and helped them decide their
case strategy. It has been interesting and is something I enjoy. I am not for or against alimony or 50/50 custody. But I am most definitely for my own clients and want whatever version is best for them. I also enjoy figuring out how to bend the purposes of a new law in the favor of my clients.
Apparently the governor vetoed the new law because it would affect existing judgments that are already in place. He did not state a policy opposed to the main provisions of the new law – just the fact that it would apply retroactively. There was concern around the state that the new alimony law would not pass a constitutional challenge in court – after the law was effective. There is a principle in the US Constitution that forbids laws that “impair” existing contracts. That means it is unconstitutional for any government body to enact a law that invalidate or modify existing contracts. Of course everything is a moving target and is flexible in a democracy. And In Florida family law, especially Florida Alimony law – everything seems to be fuzzy and ambiguous. But overall the opposition to the new law appeared to have the biggest issue with the way the law applied to existing situations as opposed to new situations.
In my opinion the custody provision would have created the least change because the vast majority of judges appear to be going In the 50/50 direction. That is a process that will continue over time.
So what is ahead for the proposed law? The law will most likely be revived in the 2014 legislative session. The current supporters of the bill will most likely still be in office. And the main provisions will probably remain the same. But it is my prediction that all of the language applying the new alimony and custody law to prior judgments will be removed. And if that is done the new law would likely be signed into law.
I never said the exciting time was over. Now we have a year of helping clients play the odds – ligigation vs negotiation in light of next year’s legislation. Be sure to sign up for our email newsletter to stay informed as important events happen.