CHAIR'S MESSAGE - AUGUST 2018
Along with the privilege of becoming
of the Family Law Section, I was also given the honor to address the members and guests who attended the Section's Awards & Installation Luncheon at The Florida Bar's Annual Convention. It was at this luncheon where I spoke about my
, my "
" and gave some of my thoughts about
both within the Family Law Section and
. Here are a few highlights from those comments:
What this organization and volunteer work are all about - for me and my goal since I began this journey, is to try and help others. I want to help those involved recall why they became involved and I want to help others get involved.
It was in that process, I found, for me it was and is the dedication and devotion to a cause that has always and will continue to have an impact. It is the hard work and tireless efforts of this Section to ensure the families in this state are best served, in every way.
In the Section, as a group, we talk about equality, marriage, equal rights, kids' voices and simply about people. Those people are Florida's families. What hit me in preparing to become Chair, was how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work for the Section, be a part of the process in making the laws of this state better for Florida's families, and educating the Bench and Bar in family law. To be at the forefront of the legal issues facing the citizens of Florida.
Since my first Family Law Section meeting in 2007, I knew my heart was in this. I knew I was in the right place. I have always been driven by my never-ending desire to make a difference, which is what kept me coming back, meeting after meeting and year after year. And just as I did at the luncheon, I challenge you, the members of this Section, to decide why you are here, what brought you to the table, and specifically to this Section of The Florida Bar. I ask you to think hard and recall.
If I could go back and tell my younger self one thing it would be this: "Abby, your efforts can make a difference. You are unstoppable when you want to be. Even if that difference is a small one. Change one child's life, help one family, represent one child pro bono or one hundred. Change the world ... If it's helping one person, it's having an impact."
So, to all of you: If I never get to specifically, personally tell you, your hard work is not unnoticed. You are doing amazing things. You are making a difference. Your impact will be remembered for years to come.
Each Chair before me has announced his or her "theme." For me, I decided that the most important thing for me to say to each of you is this: "Let's remember what it was that brought us here. Don't lose sight of that. Go back there. Recall it. Talk about it. What is YOUR purpose?"
In a world that is overrun with archaic ways of thinking about women, those who may not marry someone of the opposite sex, married versus unmarried biological parents, (which the Florida Supreme Court recently decided in Perkins v. Simmonds), the "others," the rich, the poor, the powerful and the powerless--- it's this way of thinking that is destroying all of us.
My "theory" is the people you surround yourself with, personally or professionally or both, are your "team." Teams need structure and the best way to create a unified front is to establish a set of rules for your team. It doesn't matter what specific page you are on, just as long as you're all on the same page.
So, I give you a few "rules" to guide you in your endeavors in life. I try to abide by these rules, sometimes successfully and most of the time learning as I go.
Rule One: Make failure your fuel. This is something the best around understand, but it seems like a hard concept for most to grasp. Most people today do not know what to do with the gift of failure. So they hide it, pretend it never happened, reject it outright and they end up wasting it.
Listen, failure is NOT something to be ashamed of, it is something to be powered by. Failure is the highest fuel your life can run on. Learn to make failure your fuel.
As a new lawyer, I always watched the "best" perform, listened to every word they spoke. But what was most powerful was to watch that person feel and face defeat, in the courtroom or otherwise. I learned the most, from the words of their wisdom. What I learned is that in order to become my very best in the courtroom, my office, at home and always, I would need to spend my life letting the feelings and lessons of failure transform into my power. Failure is fuel, fuel is power.
: Fail with your head up, blow it, and then WIN.
Rule Two: Lead from the desk or bench. Imagine this: You've tried more cases than any of your peers. You've worked on hundreds of thousands of cases, you've taken and passed not only the Florida Bar exam and earned Board Certification, but you've also climbed your way to the top of this profession. Your colleagues and peers look to you for the answers, the judges and fellow members of the Bar hold you in the highest regard. But you've also seen defeat. Defeated personally because of a position taken or a firm you have associated with. At times, even because of the people you associate with or simply because you are YOU!. So, yes, that sucks. It even makes you feel bad. At times you may even feel "benched." Maybe you won't be retained on a great case. Maybe you'll be ignored when you speak, maybe you'll even be talked about--- even when you are one of the few who took the time or cared too much.
The lesson here is "you are allowed to be disappointed when it feels like life has benched you." What you aren't allowed to do is miss your opportunity to lead from that bench. If you're not a leader every day no matter what, don't call yourself a leader at all. Either you are a leader everywhere or nowhere. Wherever you are put, lead from there.
Rule Three: Champion each other. During every Bar year, there are a few magical moments when the chips all fall exactly where they are meant to. When this happens, it means that everything and everyone came together perfectly. The perfect legal issue, the perfectly timed meeting, event or CLE. The right people involved. All of this culminating in year in which everything is synchronized and everyone "wins."
But, you will not always be the slam dunker, home runner or goal scorer. And when you're not, you better be rushing your team, anyway.
We must always champion each other. All of us--- doing it for the right reason--- for the good of Florida families. It won't always be perfectly synchronized. So as you go throughout this year, amplify each other's voices. Demand a seat for US, call out each other's wins, and, just like we often do, claim the success of OUR Section.
Joy, success, power. These are not pies where a bigger slice for one part means a smaller slice for you. Let's claim joy, success and power--- together.
: "A victory is also your victory. Celebrate it."
Rule Four: Demand the floor if you have something to say. I hope this year you hear this message resonate from the ceiling, wherever you are reading this.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE
. Making a small difference, changing one person's life or family is enough. As you go through this year, don't just ask yourself "what do I want to do?" Ask yourself "who do I want to be?" The most important thing to remember is that what you do will never define you, who you are always will. Who you are does matter. But what impact you have is what really counts. Don't lose sight of your team.
In closing, I ask you to close your eyes and go back, if it's one year, 10 or even 50 years, and remember why you are doing what you do. What will your mark be. What impact will you have?
Here's to a great year--- 2018-19. Let this year be the year where we all make our mark, have an impact.
Abigail M. Beebe, West Palm Beach
2018-2019 Chair, Family Law Section of The Florida Bar
Leadership Retreat & Fall Meeting
August 1 is the reservation cut-off date for the August 22-25 Family Law Section
and Fall Meeting at
The Colony Hotel
in Palm Beach.
Section Chair Abigail Beebe and Program Chairs Andrea Reid and Trisha Armstrong have put together a dynamic and fun agenda.
Check out all of the details in the event
We hope to see you there!
Case Law Update
In Gelber, the former husband sought a downward modification of alimony after his former wife reached the age of 59 ½ because she could access her retirement accounts without penalty.
After a 27-year marriage, the final judgment incorporated a marital settlement agreement ("MSA") requiring the former husband to pay permanent periodic alimony until either party died or the former wife remarried and providing the former wife retirement and annuity accounts.
The MSA did not take into consideration the eventual income that the former wife would receive from the retirement and annuity accounts, without penalty, once she reached retirement age, and made the alimony obligation modifiable.
In 2014, the former husband petitioned to modify alimony even though he had not retired and had the ability to pay the required alimony. He sought modification because the former wife's retirement accounts had appreciated, and she had reached the age of 59 ½, so she could take distributions from the accounts without penalty.
In an amended final judgment, the trial court found that the former husband demonstrated a substantial change in the former wife's income from $3,400 per month in 2004 to $7,100 per month in 2014 upon turning age 59½ when she could access the income from her retirement accounts without penalty.
The court also found that the change in available income from 2004 to 2014 was "unanticipated" because "the $5,000 a month generated from her retirement assets as of 2014 was not and could not be attributed to her in 2004" and her retirement accounts were not considered or factored into the originally agreed upon alimony amount.
On appeal, the former wife argued that her ability to access the retirement accounts without penalty at age 59 ½ was not an unanticipated change in circumstances, and alimony may not be modified in Florida for anticipated changes in circumstances.
After first finding the statute only refers to changed circumstances - and makes no reference to a change being "unanticipated" - the Fourth District discussed how the term "anticipated change" was injected into Florida law.
The principle that alimony can't be modified if a change was considered when the original alimony award was entered is akin to the doctrines of res judicata or collateral estoppel. If the court or the parties considered the anticipated occurrence when initially setting alimony, it would be grossly unfair to change the result simply because the anticipated event has come to pass.
Given that the Gelber MSA was silent as to what would happen once the former wife could access the funds in retirement accounts without penalty, the retirement accounts had not been taken into consideration to determine the former wife's current income in a final judgment or MSA.
Save the Dates! Upcoming CLE Opportunities
- Aug. 16 - New Deployed Parent Custody and Visitation Act Explained. Audio webcast by Kristin R.H. Kirkner, Esq. (noon - 1 p.m.). Florida Bar board certified Marital & Family Law specialist Kristin Kirkner will explain the ins and outs of the new Deployed Parent Custody and Visitation Act, which was effective as of July 1, 2018. Learn how the act differs from previously existing laws, its possible impact on prior and existing family law cases and potential pitfalls to avoid. Course #2926. Section member price: $75, non-section-member price: $130. CLE Credits: 1.0 General; 1.0 Ethics; 1.0 Marital & Family Law Certification. REGISTER
- Aug. 30 - Preserving Privilege where Privilege is Due in Psychological Evaluations and Social Investigations. Audio webcast by Colleen Norman, Esq. and Dr. Deborah Day (noon - 2 p.m.). The discussion will address issues arising out of the intersect of privileged information, psychological evaluations and social investigations. Questions explored: When does privilege apply? When is the examiner allowed to review and disclose privileged records? When and how can the claim of privilege be overcome? Section member price: $125; non-section-member price: $180. Course #2944. CLE Credits: 2.0 General; 1.0 Ethics; 1.0 Mental Illness Awareness. REGISTER
- Sept. 20 - Ninth Annual Case Law Update. Audio webcast by Eddie Stephens, Esq. and Ralph T. White, Esq. (noon - 2 p.m.). For the 9th year running, Florida Bar board certified Marital & Family Law specialists Eddie Stephens and R.T. White will provide an update of published Florida family law since Jan. 1, 2018. This two-hour presentation will include an insightful and engaging discussion of recent case law tackling a wide range of topics, including but not limited to alimony, parenting, relocation, equitable distribution, child support, paternity, enforcement, modification, attorney's fees, contempt, procedure and ethics. Section member price: $125; non-section-member price: $180. Course #2996. CLE Credits: 2.0 General; 0.5 Ethics; 2.0 Marital & Family Law Certification Credit. Details coming soon on special discounted price for professors and law students. REGISTER
- Oct. 26 - KAAA Fix Bill Explained. Audio webcast by Bonnie Sockel-Stone, Esq. (noon - 1 p.m.). Florida Bar board certified Marital & Family Law specialist and 2017-18 Legislation Committee Co-chair Bonnie Sockel-Stone will explain the ins and outs of the new KAAA Fix Bill, which was effective as of July 1, 2018. Her explanation will include how it differs from previously existing laws, its possible impact on prior and existing family law cases and potential pitfalls to avoid. Section member price: $75; non-section-member price: $130. Course #3036. CLE Credits: 1.0 General; 1.0 Marital & Family Law Certification Credit. REGISTER
2017-2018 Section Chair Nicole L. Goetz presented the Chair's Legislative Awards at the section's Annual Awards & Installation Luncheon during
The Florida Bar
Annual Convention. The award inscription reads, "With grateful appreciation for your invaluable contributions and the time you spent protecting Florida's families during
the 2018 legislative session." L-R: Philip Wartenberg, Amy Hickman, Kristen Kirkner, K. Beth Luna, Legislation Committee Co-chair Bonnie Sockel-Stone, John Foster, Nicole L. Goetz, Legislation Committee Co-chair Aimee Gross and Michelle Klinger Smith. Recipients not pictured: David Manz and Shannon Novey. Congratulations to these outstanding section members and thank you for making a difference!
Family Law Section Publications Committee Report
The Publications Committee is looking forward to continuing the section's history of producing informative and interesting publications that entertain and educate all of our members. Commentator Editor Anya Cintron Stern and Guest Editor Michelle Klinger Smith are working on coordination of the fall issue, which should be mailed to you in September. The FAMSEG continues its monthly production under the leadership of Editor Ron Kauffman. We encourage you to submit articles for the Commentator, FAMSEG and The Florida Bar Journal. If you are interested, please email Publications Committee Co-chairs Laura Davis Smith at email@example.com and Sonja Jean at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Florida Bar's former Practice Resource Institute now has been rebranded as
LegalFuel offers strategic tools to help Florida Bar members fuel their law practices with more efficiency and profitability. The site is a resource for learning how to start a new law firm or manage an existing one. It offers tips on specific practice management and technology topics and has an extensive library of free webinars, podcasts and more.
Family Law Section Annual and Semi-Annual Sponsors
||Lauren Alperstein and her family.
Who is someone who inspires you?
My sister, Jenna Marks. Although there are 15 years between us with me being older, she is my best friend and someone I can count on no matter what. I was in high school when she was born and, at the time, wanted nothing to do with her as I felt my world was turning upside down. But as I got a little older and wiser and she began to talk, we were instantly thick as thieves. She was the person who calmed me down when I was freaking out about the bar exam (even though she was only seven years old at the time), my go-to for everything, the best aunt for my kids, and the person I can count on no matter what. She is an amazing human being who is wise beyond her years, an old soul as we like to call her, but most importantly, she exudes kindness on a daily basis just by being her.
How do you define success?
"Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it." - Maya Angelou
Why do you practice family law?
I practice family law because I genuinely believe in helping people and making a difference in someone's life. One reason I wanted to be a lawyer, other than because I wanted to follow in my dad and grandfather's footsteps (I proudly refer to myself as a third-generation Broward County lawyer), was because of my own experience in my parents' divorce. I was in elementary school when my parents divorced and it was somewhat of a traumatic experience for me. While my parents did their best to shelter me from what was going on, I still unfortunately felt the effects of parents going through a contentious divorce. I am so happy about the progress the family law system and the judges have made since my parents' divorce in the 1990s, and that there is more of a holistic approach to family law, at least in my experience. In my practice, I bring my own experiences from my parents' divorce and try and use that insight to help my clients as they go through their difficult times.
What is something few people know about you?
I don't know how to ride a bicycle.
Sprinkle kindness like confetti.
Favorite family law case?
Obergefell v. Hodges.
Favorite book and why?
Goodnight Moon. As a mom of the two most adorable children I know (yes - I'm biased), my reading these days consists of children's books. This was a classic when I was a growing up and one that Ian and I have shared with our children every night before they go to sleep.
Favorite TV show and why?
Friends. Even though I have watched every episode from beginning to end, it's just one of those shows that never gets old no matter how many times I watch it.
Favorite song lyric?
Turns out not where you are, but who you're with that really matters. (Dave Matthews Band)
Wonder Woman - hands down. The golden lasso, the invisible plane, and the killer boots ... what could be better?
Best place you have traveled?
Proudest accomplishment within the section?
The work that I have done with the Nomenclature and Parentage committees.
What benefits do you receive as a result of your section participation?
I enjoy the sense of camaraderie with my fellow section members
it's like my extended family. I also enjoy making a difference and believe that my work in the various committees I serve on allows me to do that.
Something we did not know about you?
Doug Greenbaum was my mom's high school prom date!
Coffee or tea?
Neither. Iced grande non-fat two-splenda latte (Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks is fine).
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items could you not live without?
My cell phone to call my husband to tell him to get me ... ASAP, s
unscreen and water.
Voluntary Bar Leaders Conference Materials
If you are involved in a local bar association but were unable to attend
The Florida Bar
Voluntary Bar Leaders Conference in July, here's some great news: Most of the course materials are posted on the voluntary bar web page!
Read and view presentations on Engaging Young Lawyers, Health and Wellness (by
), Motivating Volunteers, Disaster & Emergency Preparedness, Crisis Communications and more.
The Family Law Section WANTS YOU to write for one of three publications:
- Journal: To be considered for publication in The Florida Bar Journal, the article should be scholarly and relate in some manner to family law. It should be 12-15 pages in length, complete with end notes.
- Commentator: The Family Law Section's glossy quarterly magazine. Articles could range from substantive articles to advice about lifestyle and wellness.
- FAMSEG: Have an announcement? Pictures of a section event? FAMSEG is your place! Please contact Editor Ron Kauffman.