CHAIR'S MESSAGE
Welcome to our April edition of FAMSEG! 

I write this message following a very successful Out-of-State Retreat held in Austin, Texas! Our Retreat Co-Chairs Aimee Gross and Cash Eaton put together a fantastic schedule of events, and I cannot thank them enough for making it all happen so flawlessly. I want to especially thank our Diamond Sponsor for the Austin City Limits Live concert, Bonnie Sockel-Stone, BCS, of Sockel-Stone Family Law. Thank you Bonnie! We also want to thank our other generous sponsors: the forensic accounting firm Kaufman Rossin sponsored our Welcome Cocktail Reception; and our Breakfast Sponsors were Eric Neuhof, CPA, and Shilts CPA.
 
The boat excursion to see the bats emerging by the thousands at dusk from the Congress Avenue Bridge was perfectly timed and a true highlight of the Retreat. We all made new connections (and friends) for our Texas referrals with our CLE presenters Taylor Imel and Serena Hudson of Toombs Imel & Associates of Houston. Taylor and Serena presented on the differences between Florida law and Texas family law along with Section Trustee Elisha Roy, BCS and Committee Chair Cash Eaton. 
 
Here are some of the glowing reviews the Retreat committee received after the event:
 
“Just a note to thank you for the great retreat. […] We got to the LBJ library, the Bush library, the LBJ ranch, Fredericksburg, and got to see thousands of beautiful wildflowers. […] It was enlightening and exciting. I enjoyed the whole experience very much.”
 
“The Retreat was wonderful. Thank you all for your hard work!”
 
“What a great Retreat! My 2 day side trip to San Antonio was great as well […] Looking forward to being with you all again at our next outing!”
 
Well-deserved praise for a great event, and again, THANK YOU to Aimee and Cash!
 
As far as “looking forward” to the Section’s next Retreat, Chair-Elect Sarah Kay, along with her Retreat chairs, Sarah Sullivan and Anya Cintron Stern, are already planning a great Out-of-State Retreat in Providence, Rhode Island. Save the dates now for the weekend of September 27 – 30, 2023!
 
Plans are also under way for our next major event as a Section, when we convene at the newly renovated Boca Raton Resort (now called “The Boca Raton”), for our June Annual Meetings and Installation Luncheon on June 22nd and June 23rd. Stay tuned for more information regarding our meeting schedule for that Wednesday. Thank you to everyone who submitted their Committee Preference Forms by the March 15th deadline. With the new Bar year quickly approaching, we will be sending out committee appointment letters in advance of that June Annual Meeting. Please be on the lookout for those letters! 
 
Regardless, your committee participation as a member can start anytime during the Bar year- it is simply whenever you decide to make the commitment! If you have any questions on how to become more involved in the Section, please feel free to contact me or any of the other Section Officers – we are always happy to talk.
 
I look forward to seeing you all at an upcoming Section event!
 
Magistrate Philip S. Wartenberg
Chair, 2022-2023
CLE THURSDAY, APRIL 20, 12PM - 1PM
Divorcing the Military: How to Attack, How to Defend
This course will provide an overview of the key concepts that any divorce attorney should know when dealing with a member or former member of the armed services.

The course will cover jurisdiction, disposable retired pay, the 10/10 Rule, 20/20/20 Spouses, SBP, and TSP division. 1 CLE Credit.

SCHEDULE
12:00 PM – 12:05 PM
Introduction

12:05 PM – 12:50 PM
Divorcing the Military: How to Attack, How to Defend
Marshal S. Willick, Esq., Las Vegas, NV

12:50 PM – 1:00 PM
Question and Answer
Marshal S. Willick
NOMINATIONS FOR ALBERTO ROMERO MAKING A DIFFERENCE AWARD DUE APRIL 30
The Family Law Section of The Florida Bar’s Alberto Romero Making a Difference Award recognizes the work of Section members and affiliates who provide outstanding pro bono services, engage in significant volunteer community activities that improve the lives of Florida’s children and families, and inspire other Section members to volunteer.

If you know someone who is making a difference, download the nomination form below and submit by April 30, 2023.

If you have any questions about the Award or qualifications, please contact Robin Scher at (561) 626-5640 or rjs@flafamilylawfirm.com.
CALL FOR SECTION PHOTOS/MEMORABILIA
We're planning a special celebration for the Family Law Section's 50th birthday later this year, and we're asking members to send along any Section photos, videos or other materials you may have collected over the years, particularly those that are more than 5 years old.

Please send your pictures or videos to familylawsection@thebuzzagency.net with the subject line 'FAMILY LAW 50."

More information on the celebration to come so stay tuned!
SEEN ON THE SCENE
Out-of-State Retreat /Austin 2023
SCHOLARSHIPS AVAILABLE + SAVE THE DATE
Trial Advocacy Workshop, July 13-16, Orlando
The Family Law Section has five (5) needs-based scholarships and one (1) diversity based scholarship of $800.00 each for individuals to attend our bi-annual Trial Advocacy Workshop, taking place at The JW Marriott Grand Lakes Hotel in Orlando, Florida from Thursday, July 13, 2023 - Sunday, July 16, 2023.

The application deadline is Wednesday, May 15, 2023 at 5:00PM and the application form is below!
TECH TIPS
Fla. Stat. § 90.2035 Judicial Notice of Internet Maps and Images
By:Matthew E. Thatcher, Esq., B.C.S.

We have all been there. It could be that you are litigating an action for relocation and you need to establish or refute that a parent’s new address crosses the 50 mile boundary of Section 61.13001(1)(e). It could be that you are litigating the establishment or modification of a parenting plan and you want to demonstrate that a proposed residential location, or school choice, is not logistically feasible given driving time and distance in rush hour traffic for school morning drop-offs. It could be that you want to show the court an aerial image of the marital residence, or neighborhood to highlight proximity to certain relatives, or to the child’s school, or the other parent. 
 
If a picture is a thousand words, maps and images are pictures that can speak volumes in support of your case. The question is, how do you present them in a manner that avoids the inevitable hearsay objection? As practitioners what can we do short of the tedious exercise in presenting testimony from the corporate representative of the website where you derived the maps or images, to lay the predicate to satisfy the business records exemption to hearsay and establish the accuracy and authenticity of the information?
 
The Florida Rules of Evidence now provide a straightforward resolution to this dilemma. You can now file a request for judicial notice of these maps and images that you retrieved from the internet while at your office desk.
 
Section 90.2035, Florida Statutes titled “Judicial notice of information taken from web mapping services, global satellite imaging sites, or Internet mapping tools” was effective as of July 1, 2022. The only restriction is that the map or image you seek to be judicially noticed must indicate the date on which the information was created. See Section 90.2035(1)(a).
 
The procedure under this statute is the same as the procedure under Section 90.203, Florida Statutes for items subject to discretionary notice under Section 90.202, Florida Statutes. 
 
  • You must give notice of your intent to seek judicial notice within a reasonable time prior to the trial or hearing where you intend for the court to take notice of the internet maps or images. See Fla. Stat. §90.2035(1)(b);
  • Your notice of intent must include a copy of what you request to be judicially noticed by the court. See Fla. Stat. § 90.2035(1)(b); and
  • Your notice of intent must include the internet address where the information can be accessed and inspected. See 90.2035(1)(b).
 
There is a rebuttable presumption in civil cases (such as a domestic relations case) that the Court should grant judicial notice of this type of information if properly noticed. To overcome this presumption, the opposing party must timely object to the request for judicial notice and establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the maps or images do “not fairly and accurately portray what it is being offered to prove or that it otherwise should not be admitted into evidence under the Florida Evidence Code.” See Fla. Stat. § 90.2035(2)(a) and (b).

Put into practice what does this mean? It means that as trial practitioners we need to be thinking well in advance as to whether the Court will benefit from receiving computer/internet maps that show the driving distance and time between two different locations; including “as the crow flies” distances. Whether a satellite image of the house, neighborhood or community will be beneficial in explaining to the Court why it should rule one way versus the other. If so, do not wait until the deadline under a pretrial order or the Court’s administrative procedures for the exchange of exhibits. Timely file in advance your request for judicial notice under Section 90.2035, Florida Statutes. Ring the bell early so that there can be little to no objection when the evidentiary hearing arrives as to whether or not these computer generated documents can be received by the Court in conjunction with the other competent substantial evidence. You will not need to have your client affirm that it takes him/her a certain amount of time to cover a distance. Instead, you can just direct the Court to accept the “fact” of the time and distance from the documents properly received through this judicial notice procedure.

Useful Mapping / Imaging Sites
  • maps.google.com
  • maps.yahoo.com
  • earth.google.com
 
“As the Crow Flies” distance Calculators 
  • doogal.co.uk/MeasureDistances
  • gps-coordinates.net/distance
COMMITTEE SPOTLIGHT
Rules & Forms
Co-Chairs: Kristin Kirkner, Esq. and Tenesia C. Hall, Esq.

The Family Law Section Rules & Forms Committee actively monitors and analyzes all rules and forms which may have an impact upon the practice of family law and, when appropriate, prepares comments and provides feedback on changes proposed by other committees and organizations. The Committee regularly collaborates with Florida Bar committees and other Family Law Section committees to craft new and update existing rules and forms to help meet the changing needs of family law litigants and practitioners.
 
This year, we’re evaluating rules and forms related to (a) dismissal for lack of prosecution, (b) final judgment/final hearing colloquy, (c) income withholding orders, (d) special magistrate rules 12.492 and 12.491, (e) glitch between rules 12.364 and 12.365 as it relates to 61.20 social investigations,
 
We also submitted comments on the following:
  1. To the Florida Supreme Court re: (1) Form 12.945(a) Verified Motion for Emergency Relief, (2) In re: amendments to Rule 15, The Florida Rules for Qualified and Court-Appointment Parenting Coordinators, and (3) In re: Amendments to Florida Family Law Rule of Procedure 12.285, and Forms 12.902(k) and 12.902(l); and,
  2. To the Dispute Resolution Center in response to the proposed “Operating Procedures for Certified Parenting Coordinator Trainings Adopted Pursuant to Rule 15.400 by the Committee on ADR Rules and Policy Effective May 9, 2023.
 
The Co-Chairs of the Rules and Forms, Kristin Kirkner and Tenesia Hall, encourage any interested in participating in the committee to email them at rules@familylawfla.org.
SETTLEMENT AGREEMENTS:
Suggestions Involving One of the Largest Marital Assets - Retirement Plans
By: Timothy C. Voit, Financial Analyst

An excerpt from a recently drafted marital settlement agreement reads: “The Respondent has a FERS federal retirement with the United States Postal Service that will go into effect when the Respondent turns 62 years of age. The dollar figure is not available until the Respondent files for his deferred benefit approximately 60 days before he reaches 62 years of age. The Respondent will apply for pension, and the Petitioner is to prepare documents necessary to divide the said pension 50/50 between the Respondent and Petitioner…”
 
In short, paragraph above has numerous problems associated with it and creates a liability for both attorneys given the settlement agreement was drafted by one attorney and agreed to by the other. First, it doesn’t "go into effect" at age 62 rather with the federal pensions it could be earlier, depending upon the years of service or later , as there is not a mandatory retirement age for general employees. It can be earlier or later. Second, benefit information not being available until someone retires is simply not true. An accrued monthly pension benefit can generally be calculated at any time. It would be to the benefit of the federal employee spouse to have it calculated, with the spouse’s share defined. Also add, if the overall retirement annuity is reduced for early retirement, the spouse’s share is reduced proportionately. Third, it appears that the plan participant spouse is forced to retire at age 62, whether they can afford to or not, and fourth, it appears that the spouse is agreeing to waiting until age 62 to receive their share when pension benefits can commence earlier. 
 
Typically a pension plan has a normal retirement age, defined by the plan, e.g. age 62 for instance, which pays the maximum unreduced monthly pension benefit, but age 62 isn’t the only age a participant can receive unreduced benefits. In many pension plans, the normal retirement age shifts to an earlier age depending upon the individuals years of service, a certain threshold or “Rule”, if you will such as the "Rule of 80" where age and years of service equal 80, or “any with age with 30 years of service”.
 
The point here is that all too often an attorney will receive a benefit statement indicating the normal retirement age benefit payable at the normal retirement age, and reference that age in the settlement ageement as above. In effect, handcuffing the spouse to receiving their share at that age, when it could be received earlier, due to an earlier retirement age from attaining a threshold or perhaps for early retirement. The problem with specifying an age is that the plan participant 1) could retire early and the spouse doesn’t receive their share until age 62 because, the other side could argue, they agreed to receiving their share at age 62. 
 
In short, shy away from specifying an age unless you are the attorney for the spouse. If you represent the spouse, and the plan participant would like to continue working, build in some language such that the plan participant will begin paying the spouse’s share directly until they actual retire and begin receiving payments from the plan. A Court Order Acceptable for Processing (COAP), similar to a QDRO, can be prepared then directing the plan administrator to pay the spouse directly. Why? The federal employee spouse, like a state or county employee under the Florida Retirement System can deny the other spouse their benefit if they choose to work beyond their normal retirement age. In a case out of California, Gilmore v. Gilmore, the court decide that if a spouse works beyond the normal retirement age, thus denying the other spouse their share of the pension, the spouse with the pension must pay the other spouse their share even if they elect not to retire. I’ve testified to this issue in Florida pertaining to FRS where the school teacher, age 70 refuse to retire, when they could have retired with full unreduced benefits at age 62. Arrearages in excess of $70,000 was awarded in that case representing the spouse’s share from the FRS spouse’s age 62 to their current age 70.
 
The above pertains to government pension plans because in the private sector, and pursuant to a QDRO, the spouse could have elected to receive their share once the participant attained the earliest retirement age under the plan regardless of whether or not they retire. This is but one difference between private sector pensions and government pensions.
 
It is commonly understood that there are basically two types of retirement plans - defined benefit plans (usually Pensions) and defined contribution plans (usually 401(k)s). Without delving too much into the weeds of what technically defines a pension, simply put when you observe the word “pension” in the title of the plan it implies the plan pays a monthly pension stipend for life beginning at a specific (“normal”) retirement age defined by the plan, and the other, a defined contribution plan, or 401(k) having an account balance comprised of mutual funds and alike. There is a cash balance plan which is a defined benefit plan, but one that pays a lump-sum equivalent of the monthly pension benefit for life. For now we are only discussing the defined benefit pension plan.

Tim Voit of Voit Econometrics Group, Inc. prepares QDROs for attorneys in Florida and is retained in legal malpractice cases to fix QDROs or compute damages. Tim Voit provides expert witness testimony on QDROs and pension valuations, is the author of Retirement Benefits & QDROs in Divorce, and has been quoted in Forbes, BusinessWeek, NewsWeek on a variety of issues involving QDROs.
SPONSORS WANTED! If your business would like to reach nearly 4,000 Family Law professionals through our various communications platforms and in-person and virtual events, we invite you to consider Section sponsorship. To learn more about benefits and levels, email sponsorship@familylawfla.org or click HERE to learn more.
WRITERS WANTED! Want to submit an article for our monthly FAMSEG e-news, or our quarterly magazine, The Commentator? We can always use Tech Tips, Case Law Updates, and other relevant news for our 4,000+ members. Just email publications@familylawfla.org for more information. Thank you for your interest in contributing to our member publications!