As I write this, my last Chair's Message for FAMSEG, I realize it is the perfect time to take a look back at the 2016-2017 Bar year, to remind all of us what this section is all about, what we stand for, and what we have accomplished. I am very proud of The Family Law Section, and here, in part, is why.
Our section is philanthropic.
The very first act of the section under my leadership this year was to vote on a motion for and to approve a donation of $25,000 to the One Orlando Fund in the wake of the Pulse Nightclub shootings.
The section also expanded its scholarship number to include an additional ten (10) for the judiciary, to increase the attendance of judges, general magistrates and hearing officers at the annual Marital and Family Law Review Course. The section contributed financially to the Florida Bar Foundation, the FLAFCC, and to the Kozyak Minority Mentoring Picnic. The section also voted to provide for telephonic attendance at section meetings for general magistrates and hearing officers in order to decrease the cost of attendance.
Our section is forward-thinking and inclusive.
Members of the Executive Committee traveled to Tallahassee for the 2016 Section Leadership Conference in July. As a result of that conference, two ad hoc committees were established: the Ad Hoc Constitutional Revision Committee chaired by
Abigail Beebe, and the Ad Hoc Committee for Diversity and Inclusion chaired by
Our section brings others along the journey.
Thereafter, Andrea Reid guided section members along the "Road to Leadership" in St. Augustine as part of the section's own biannual Leadership Retreat. Past Chairs
Carin Porras, Elisha Roy, Jorge Cestero, Diane Kirigin, and
Maria Gonzalez shared their insight and path to section leadership, as did
Nicole Goetz, Chair-Elect,
Abigail Beebe, Treasurer, and
Amy Hamlin, Secretary. The attendees participated in a team-building "Amazing Race'' type scavenger hunt through the winding streets of the historic city, and dined at the renowned Columbia Restaurant. The section's Fall meetings were held in St. Augustine in conjunction with the retreat, and were very well-attended.
Our section is blessed with a symbiotic relationship with the AAML.
In September, members and guests of the section traveled to Seattle, Washington, for the 2016 annual out-of-state retreat, held jointly with the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) and its President
Natalie Lemos. Organized by
Douglas Greenbaum, the section's
Gabrielle (Gabby) Tollok, and the AAML's
Susan Stafford, the Seattle trip was an absolute success: The sun never stopped shining the entire time we Floridians were there, and everyone enjoyed the view of Seattle from atop the Space Needle, the guided tours of Pike's Market, the CLE on the Hague Convention and International Child Abduction, and the harbor tour with views of Mount Ranier.
Our section provides superb, informative continuing legal education and news, which helps our members better serve Florida's families.
In January, Aimee Gross led the Marital and Family Law Review Course with record-breaking attendance, once again, at the Lowe's Royal Pacific Hotel at Universal Studios. The speaker roster was spectacular and two new presenters -
Reuben Doupe and
Ron Kauffman - were simply superb; they will surely be in the lineup again, soon. It was at the Review Course that I presented
Douglas Greenbaum with the 2017 Chair's Visionary Award for his years of dedication to the section. Don't forget to calendar next year's course, again at the Lowe's Royal Pacific Hotel.
Under the leadership of
Julia Wyda, the Publications Committee has sent to print the section's quarterly
Commentator magazine and periodic Florida Bar
articles. Because of
Eddie Stephens, this monthly email newsletter you are reading right now has hit the screens on the first business day of each and every month, without fail, providing the section's members with the most recent news and notes.
Our section works hard.
The section's mid-year meetings took place in conjunction with the Marital and Family Law Review Course. Each of the committees has worked diligently this year, and sincere gratitude goes out to all of them, which include the: Ad Hoc Access to Justice Committee chaired by
Sarah Sullivan; Ad Hoc Bounds of Advocacy Committee chaired by
Richard West and
Melinda Gamot; Ad Hoc Bylaws Committee chaired by
Douglas Greenbaum; Ad Hoc Constitution Revision Committee chaired by
Abigail Beebe; Ad Hoc Diversity and Inclusion Committee chaired by
Sheena Benjamin-Wise; Ad Hoc Mission Statement Committee chaired by
Amy Hamlin; Ad Hoc Nomenclature Committee chaired by
Douglas Greenbaum; Ad Hoc Parentage Committee chaired by
John Foster and
Patricia Alexander; Ad Hoc Probate Jurisdictional Committee chaired by
Sheena Benjamin-Wise; Ad Hoc Public Relations chaired by
Lori Caldwell-Carr and
Patricia Elizee; ADR Committee, chaired by
Ron Bornstein; Amicus Curiae Committee, chaired by
Cynthia Greene; Children
's Issues Committee chaired by
Sheena Benjamin Wise and
Sonja Jean; Continuing Legal Education Committee chaired by
Andrea Reid and
David Hirschberg; Domestic Violence Committee chaired by
Andrea Reid and
Beth Luna; Equitable Distribution Committee chaired by
Joe Hunt and
Aimee Gross; Finance Committee chaired by
Abigail Beebe; GM/HO Committee chaired by
Doug Greenbaum and
Ron Kauffman; Legislation Committee chaired by
Philip Wartenberg and
Bonnie Sockel-Stone; the committee formerly known as Litigation Support, chaired by
Cash Eaton and
Matt Lundy; Long Range Planning chaired by
Nicole Goetz; Marital and Family Law Review Course chaired by
Aimee Gross; Membership Committee chaired by
Anthony Genova; Publications Committee chaired by J
ulia Wyda; Rules and Forms Committee chaired by
Sarah Kay and
C. Debra Welch; Sponsorship Committee chaired by
Matt Lundy and
Beth Luna; Support Issues Committee chaired by
Ron Bornstein and
Michelle Klinger Smith; and the Technology Committee chaired by
and Eddie Stephens.
Our section strives to protect the best interest of Florida's children.
In keeping with section tradition and practice, our lobbyists reviewed every bill presented to the 2017 legislature and, in turn, the Legislation Committee members monitored those bills that could possibly impact
's families. The Legislation Committee's Co-Chairs
Philip Wartenberg and
Bonnie Sockel-Stone have done a tremendous job for the section this year. As of the date of this message, they are leading the section's vigorous campaign to urge Governor Scott to veto SB 590, the bill that would allow for the establishment of timesharing plans, absent a finding of best interest of the child, by administrative hearing officers in Department of Revenue child support matters.
Amy Hickman's expertise with the dependency system proved to be invaluable in our successful opposition to the Temporary Respite Care bill.
Our section members like to spend time with each other and our families, and we have a lot of fun doing so!
The last hurrah of the year prior to the Annual Meeting was the in-state retreat to Cheeca Lodge in Islamorada. Focusing on family - the reason we all work as hard as we do and for whom we work so very hard (Florida's families) - the retreat included an educational component on crafting parenting plans for children with emotional or educational needs
. Bonnie Sockel-Stone and
Sonja Jean arranged a spectacular three day relaxation remedy, complete with a snorkeling trip and a reception at the Keys home of our section liaison to the Board of Governors, Dori Foster-Morales. An incredibly well-received presentation on implicit bias was presented by
The Honorable Scott Bernstein,
Sonja Jean and
Sheena Benjamin-Wise. Thanks to the generosity of the event sponsors
Foster-Morales Sockel-Stone, LLP, (Dori and Bonnie), and segment sponsors
Ronald Kauffman, Dr. Deborah Day, David Hirschberg, Matt Lundy, and
Amy Hamlin, as well as Matt Lundy's creative sponsorship ideas, the cost of this retreat was greatly reduced for members' benefit.
Thank you for the incredible opportunity to lead this section.
Our section administrator,
Gabby Tollok, is unparalleled in her enthusiasm and energy, and I am so very thankful to her for all of her support and good humor. I am also grateful to my two law partners,
Cynthia Greene and
Cynthia Greene, and our associate,
Alicia de la O, for their support during this very demanding year. My sincere gratitude goes to the section's incredible executive committee:
Nicole Goetz, Abigail Beebe,
Amy Hamlin, and
Maria Gonzalez, all of whom were at the ready to fulfill their duties to our very well-served section.
I am most grateful to my family - my husband,
Mark Smith, and my sons
Brady Smith, who graciously and lovingly permitted me to take on the immense responsibility of being Chair of The Family Law Section.
I am blessed to have such a wonderful group of people supporting my efforts, and I pray that I have met your expectations. To be the Chair of The Family Law Section of The Florida Bar has been my honor and my privilege, and one of the most incredible learning experiences of my life. I am eternally grateful to all of you.
In closing, it is with the greatest confidence that I hand the gavel over to
Nicole Goetz for 2017-2018, and I encourage you all to get to know her just a little better through her wonderful Executive Council Spotlight, below!
Laura Davis Smith, Esquire