Family Law Section Monthly Newsletter
Chair's Message

Welcome to the 2016/2017 Bar year! I am delighted to be leading our very active section this year, along with my very capable Executive Committee:  Maria Gonzalez , Immediate Past Chair;  Nicole Goetz , my Chair Elect;  Abigail Beebe , Treasurer; and Amy Hamlin , our newly elected Secretary! 

This year is going to be one guided by the principles of teamwork, with all of us working together, to make the Section greater than the sum of its parts. 

Our first step will be our biannual Leadership Retreat August 6-9 in St. Augustine. We are holding the Fall meetings in conjunction with the Retreat (we didn't want to interfere with the FSU/UM game in October)! 

The Retreat will be informative and fun! We will participate in teams for our very own Amazing Race, St. Augustine style, hear from our Lobbyists, dine at the Columbia restaurant, will mix and mingle with section members from all around the state. Chaired by Andrea Reid and Thomas Duggar, the Retreat is not to be missed!  It's a must for anyone interested in leadership positions within the section and all are encouraged to sign up and join us.

Laura Davis Smith, Esquire
Chair, Family Law Section of the Florida Bar
In Memoriam - Honorable Mark E. Polen

The Family Law Section lost one of its former Chairs (1994-1995) on June 22, 2016 at age 71 following a stroke.     Judge Mark E. Polen , a graduate of the University of Miami School of Law in 1969, was an outstanding lawyer and jurist for his 46 year-long legal career.  Most memorably, Judge Polen served from 1989 to 2013 on the Fourth District Court of Appeal, and two of those years he was Chief Judge.  He was a friend, colleague and mentor to many in the Section, and his loss is deeply felt.  In his honor, the Family Law Section is making a contribution to The Starting Place, an addiction treatment center in Fort Lauderdale where Judge Polen served as a Director on its Board.

A New Look, A New Name

As you can see from this edition of FAMSEG, we're making exciting changes to the format and content of FAMSEG!  In addition to our new look, the Section also plans to rename FAMSEG.   We invite all Section members to e-mail their suggestions for a new name to Julia WydaThe winner whose suggested name is chosen will receive a free year of Section membership dues and a $50 Starbucks gift card.  Please join us in our efforts to modernize FAMSEG

Upcoming Events

August 7 - 9Leadership Retreat - St. Augustine, FL

Sept. 7 - 11Out of State Retreat - Seattle, WA

Jan. 26 Committee Meetings - Orlando, FL

Executive Council Spotlight - Abigail Beebe

Rarely does being a difference-maker harmonize so naturally at one's work, home, and in the community. Except in the case of attorney Abigail Beebe, a Board Certified Specialist in Marital & Family Law and principal owner of The Law Office of Abigail Beebe, West Palm Beach. For Abigail,
the calling to make a difference has always been a part of her makeup. Abigail explains: "When an issue presents itself to me, I can't stand by and do nothing. When an idea is brought to me, I get excited about strategizing a plan to make it happen, executing it and ultimately watching its impact. Making even a small difference, for me, is getting the best gift there is."
Abigail has been practicing law for nearly a decade, starting her career with the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, Inc. After years in private practice, she founded The Law Office of Abigail Beebe, P.A. in July 2014. Abigail's reputation in the South Florida legal community as an active participant and influencer in alimony reform, legislation for The Florida Bar Family Law Section, and the lobbying and drafting of documentation on family law is formidable.
While Abigail is a difference-maker everyday in representing her clients, South Florida children, the Florida community, and legal legislation in general, she somehow finds the time and energy to match that commitment outside of the courtroom. Abigail serves on the Executive Council of The Florida Bar Family Law Section as Secretary; is the immediate past-chair of the Family Law Section Legislation Committee; and a founding member of The Susan B. Greenberg Family Law American Inn of Court of the Palm Beaches. Abigail serves as the Chair of the Family Law CLE Committee and formerly chaired the Unified Family Practice Committee for the Palm Beach County Bar Association; has chaired the Family Law Section of the Palm Beach County Bench Bar Conference for two years; and is chair of the Fourth Annual Princess and Pirate Ball, which benefits the Pat Reeves Village Shelter for The Center for Family Services of Palm Beach County - Kids Helping Kids. In 2015, Florida's Children First (FCF) recognized Abigail for her ongoing commitment to children and named her Pro Bono Attorney of the Year.
"Ever since I can remember, I have always wanted to help people and make a real difference," Abigail added. "Early on, I sought out opportunities to impact people and charitable organizations where I felt my support and contributions would have a real impact. My passion is finding ways to change the world, and specifically Florida, regarding children in the foster care system, family law cases and legislation, and family-related needs and issues."
Section Gives Back

One Orlando Fund.   The Florida Bar Family Law Section Executive Council unanimously voted to donate $25,000 to the One Orlando Fund to assist victims (and their families) of the Pulse Orlando Massacre.  The Section is united with Orlando in standing strong.

Legal Aid Donations.   The Florida Bar Family Law Section members support legal aid societies across the state.  A donation will be made this year to the Palm Beach County Legal Aid Society and next year to the Orange County Legal Aid Society.

Upcoming CLE
Registration Info Coming Soon!

September 28 :   How Not to Get Yourself in Trouble 
Practicing Family Law

October 19: Five Myths of Collaborative Law

November 10: Case Law Update

November 16Mechanics of Board Certification

January 29 - 30:  Board Certification Review

Magistrate and Hearing Officers' Corner

Magistrates and Hearing Officers can call in for Committee Meetings!  
The Florida Bar Family Law Section Executive Council unanimously voted in support of a Pilot Program for one year for Magistrates and Hearing Officers to be permitted to appear telephonically at Magistrate and Hearing Officer Committee meetings.  The Family Law Section will cover the expenses related to having the necessary telephonic equipment at the meetings.  Stay tuned for more information as it relates to conference call phone numbers.
Up to 10 scholarships for Magistrates & Hearing Officers to attend the Marital & Family Review Course in January 2017 The Florida Bar Family Law Section Executive Council unanimously voted to award up to 10 scholarships for Magistrates and Hearing Officers to attend the Marital and Family Review Course in January of 2017.  More information to follow on how to apply for these scholarships.
June Section Committee Meetings

Maria Gonzalez & Gabrielle Tollok
Nicole Goetz and Carin Porras 
Abigail Beebe, Laura Davis Smith & Heather Apicella
Judge Ray McNeal
Aimee Gross, Sheena Benjamin-Wise, 
Sarah Kay and Bob Merlin
Steve Sessums and Belinda Lazzara 
Legislative Corner

The Chair of the Legislative Committee,  Phillip Wartenberg , is proud to report that we had a good year. The bills the Section opposed (alimony/equal timesharing premise and power of attorney bill) were vetoed and the bills that the Section supported (adoption and collaborative) were signed into law.  It was a busy and productive year. Thank you to all of our members who traveled to Tallahassee on behalf of the Section to lobby on behalf of Florida's families.
Family Law Section's Mentoring Program

Everyone needs some guidance at some point in their career.  If one is lucky enough to realize this early on, they can take advantage of the years of experience around them.  In recognition of this need, and the plethora of attorneys that were being 'forced' into hanging out their shingles in the mid-2000s due to the economic crisis, the Family Law Section established its mentoring program as a benefit to its members and as a service to the community.
The program is designed to allow mentors and mentees to create a relationship that works for them; for example, not every mentee needs a structured program or every mentor has that much time to give, but they can meet periodically in person or on the phone and ask and answer questions on an as needed basis.    Mentees range from student members to those Section members with more experience, all of whom are seeking guidance on topics ranging from practice related issues to how to deal with a particular legal issue. 
Choosing a mentor from the experienced practitioners who have graciously agreed to serve is easy.  Complete the mentor application and submit it to the Section administrator for the Section's future use. Then, simply review the list (all mentors' locale, telephone and email addresses are provided) and pick one that is in your area to start.  Contact him/her and advise them that you are a member of the Section and interested in a mentor and from the website see that he/she has agreed to serve as a mentor.  Tell them what it is that you are looking for in your mentor-mentee relationship and if the mentor is able to assist you in this regard, he or she will let you know.  If it's a match, great, if it's not, you can then ask for possible recommendations from the list or simply move on to your next choice until you find one that is the right fit.  That's all there is to it.  Of course, any questions can be directed to the Section Administrator, Gabrielle Tollok at   850/561-5650 or Robin J. Scher, at 561/626-5640.
Here is an excerpt from a mentee currently participating in the Section's Mentoring Program:

"I went to law school, passed the bar, now what? I knew I wanted to be on my own, but was also terrified at the prospect of not working at a law firm where more seasoned attorneys could assist me and answer all my questions as I gained my own experience. At first, I did not have much guidance, so I leaned on one of my law school's professor who was kind, patient and generously provided the initial guidance that I required.  With a little research, I came across the Mentoring Corner of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar.  This became the answer to my professional predicament! I learned that there are a group of successful lawyers that provide mentoring and guidance to new lawyer like myself. Since then, the wonderful individuals that participate in this program have supplied me with the legal advice, suggestions, and guidance (in both trial and appellate courts), that have allowed me to succeed as a solo practitioner. At first, I reached out to multiple mentors, trying not to overburden any single one with the myriad of questions that come along with doing everything for the first time. Then, I was extremely fortunate to come across a wonderful attorney who took me under her wing, and always made time to answer all my phone calls and text messages.
Without this program, and the selfless individuals that participate in it, I would not have been able to make it on my own. Throughout the years, I have received invaluable support from different mentors and family law attorneys. This has come in the form of guidance on procedure, guidance on case law and evidence, helpful tips on ongoing cases, and sample forms.  Additionally, the mentoring lawyers always have suggestions as to how to become a more ethical, active and overall better professional.  The only caveat pertains to time. Understandably, every mentoring lawyer has different available time, accessible time and response time. As a mentee, I believe it is very important to do your own research first, and then keep the important questions that remain brief and concise, to not overburden the mentor. Simply put, this is an amazing program, and I am very grateful to all the lawyers that have dedicated their time to me and others to help us become better professionals."  -Jeannette Watkin, Esq.

Eddie Stephens 2013
Stephens' Squibs

Click here for May Squibs.   Squib of the month:  

Steinman v. Steinman, 41 Fla.L.Weekly D1128 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016).  Order of contempt prohibiting Mother from having children follow her religious beliefs and practices reversed as it impermissibly impinged on her religious freedom.  Trial court cannot preclude a parent of one religious faith from actively influencing the training of the child inconsistent with the different religious faith of the other parent.
Call for Articles

The Family Law Section WANTS YOU to write for one of its three publications: The Florida Bar Journal, The Family Law Commentator, and/or FAMSEG.

The Journal: To be considered for publication in The Florida Bar Journal, the a rticle should be scholarly and relate in some manner to family law. It should be twelve to fifteen pages in length, complete with end notes. For more information contact C. Debra Welch or Belinda Lazzara.

The Commentator: The Family Law Sections Glossy Quarterly magazine. Art icles could range from substantive articles to advice about lifestyle and wellness. For more information contact Tenesia Hall or Heather Apicella.

FAMSEG: Got an announcement? Pictures of a section event? Something light and fluffy? FAMSEG is your place! You might have noticed something different in this edition of FAMSEG. So if you have any of the above, or suggestions to improve the look and feel of FAMSEG, contact Eddie Stephens.

Your tools are important. Use the best:
  • Better Guidelines and Affidavits.
  • Client Electronic Data Entry.
  • Instant Answers to Key Questions.
Employment Opportunities:

Nicole L. Goetz, PL, an AV Rated Naples Family Law Firm, seeks an experienced associate attorney. Exceptional writing, analytical, interpersonal and litigations skills required. The right candidate will be able to assist immediately with ongoing and new cases. Compensation based on experience and qualifications. For more information and to apply, click here .
Advertise in FAMSEG!
For information: Contact Gabrielle Tollok at