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Divorce stabilization bill clears the House

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A Family Law Section priority, the measure is designed to make divorce proceedings more uniform

Rep. Traci Koster

Rep. Traci Koster

The Legislature is poised to sign off on a measure, crafted with the help of the Family Law Section, that would make divorce proceedings more uniform.

The House voted 117-0 on Thursday to approve HB 521 by Republican Rep. Traci Koster, a Tampa marital and family law attorney.

A Senate companion, SB 534 by Republican Sen. Erin Grall, a Vero Beach attorney, is on the Senate floor.

The upper chamber could grant final legislative approval as soon as Wednesday.

“HB 521 recognizes the complexities surrounding divorce proceedings and addresses some conflicting caselaw regarding the distribution and assets and liabilities between parties,” Koster told her House colleagues when she introduced it to the floor.

With respect to equitable distribution, Koster said the bill does four things dealing with the identification, valuation and distribution of the parties’ assets, and liabilities.

“With respect to identification, HB 521 addresses a court opinion and specifies that a gift of real property from one spouse to another must be in compliance with Section 689.01, which is our statute of frauds,” Koster said.

With regard to the valuation of property, HB 521 provides guidelines in determining valuation of a “closely held business” by the spouses, Koster said.

“And lastly, with regard to the distribution of assets, the bill provides a framework for the interim partial distribution during the course of the dissolution of marriage action,” Koster said.

SB 534 sped through the Judiciary Committee, the Children, Families & Elder Affairs Committee, and the Rules Committee without a negative vote. HB 521 cleared the Civil Justice Subcommittee and the Judiciary Committee with equal ease.

Koster’s floor presentation prompted only one question.

“I haven’t had a chance to see this in committee,” said Democratic Rep. Christopher Benjamin, a Miami Gardens attorney. “What’s the Family Law Section of The Florida Bar’s position on this, or have they made a position?”

“They were integral in drafting this bill,” Koster said.

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