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Florida Divorce Law Faces Major Changes with Two Bills Pending Before the House and Senate

Florida LawBy: Kayla Richmond, Esq.

As family dynamics evolve, so do the laws that aim to protect them. If you are a family law practitioner, you should closely monitor a few law changes that could occur in the State of Florida this year, impacting your practice.

Greyson’s Law

First, keep an eye on “Greyson’s Law” (Senate Bill 130 and HB 97). Greyson Kessler was a 4-year-old boy that was killed by his father in a tragic murder-suicide in 2021. The father’s behavior was erratic, threatening and dangerous to the mother. As a result, the mother attempted to protect the child using the court system via injunctions, emergency pick-up orders, and supervised timesharing between the child and the father. However, based on the fact that the threats were directed at the mother, the court denied that there was a direct threat to the child requiring protection and did not provide the mother relief. The outcome was life-ending.

The law often results in parents sharing custody of their children, even if one parent has been violent toward the other. However, Greyson’s Law will change this by adding violence between parents as a factor to be considered when deciding on custody arrangements and court orders. This means that the court will consider how each parent has behaved toward the other, even if the threats or violence were not directed toward the child. This will help the court better understand how parents may be using their children to harm the other parent and make more informed decisions to protect families.

Shared Parental Responsibility after the Establishment of Paternity

In Florida, when an unmarried father and mother have a child together, the mother automatically has all the legal rights and responsibilities to care for the child. The father must go through the court system to establish paternity and gain legal rights as a parent. This process can be complicated and costly.

Senate Bill 1146 proposes a change to this system. The change would allow an unmarried father who acknowledges paternity (which means he officially confirms that he is the child’s biological father) to automatically have the same legal rights as the mother to take care of the child. This would happen from the time of the acknowledgment without the need for court proceedings. The father would be recognized as a natural guardian of the child along with the mother.

This new bill aims to streamline the legal process and give unmarried fathers more rights to be involved in their children’s lives. In addition, it would simplify the complex history of cases that define paternity, legitimacy and parentage of children born outside of marriage.

Bottom Line

Check out the status of Greyson’s Law and Senate Bill 1146 to find out if they are becoming law and become familiar with these issues that will impact the families you represent.

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