November brings us closer to the end of 2020; a year that we will never forget. The Family Law Section, in keeping with the spirit of giving, has awarded 21 scholarships to deserving applicants for the Certification Review Course. The course will take place virtually on Thursday, January 31, 2021 and Friday February 1, 2021. Registration is still open; and, for the first time you do not have to leave the comfort of your home or office to attend.

Additionally, the Section has been working diligently on planning some great CLEs to close out the year. On November 10, 2020, there will be a CLE titled “Preserving Your Record for Appeal in the COVID-19 World – Virtual Hearings and Trials”. Then on December 10, 2020, Reuben Doupe and Ronald Kauffman will be presenting the CLE, “2 Lawyers, 1 Law–Case Law Update 2020.” 

As 2020 draws to an end, many of us are thinking about the upcoming holiday season. In any normal year, we would be attending holiday parties and spending Thanksgiving with our family and friends. However, 2020 now has many of us rethinking how we will celebrate the holidays.  Although the holiday season will be different this year, we can still celebrate with our family and friends just in a different manner; 2020 has, after all, been the year of adjustment.

During the month of November, we celebrate Veterans Day and Thanksgiving Day. Veterans Day is dedicated to honoring those who have served and defended our country. May we celebrate those active duty service members separated from their families for the holidays. 

This year we should also take the time to honor all of the frontline responders who have assisted during the pandemic, including but not limited, to law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, medical personnel, teachers and everyone who has gone above and beyond to help anyone, in any way, in dealing with the pandemic and its impact.

As I reflect on this year, I realize how easy it is to forget how lucky we are and how grateful we should be for all that we have. Sometimes, when reflecting on our lives, we can get caught up in viewing the glass as being half empty rather than half full. I know that when I get stressed, or when I am feeling down, I like to either write down or think of 10 things each day that make me smile or will uplift me. This activity of reflection helps to reduce stress and provides me with a different prospective on life.

This year I have to admit that I have not been as good of a friend as I could have been. I realized that I have not only been social distancing during this pandemic, but have spent much more time socially isolating. My self-reflection helped me understand that each of these experiences have helped me grow and become a better person. As part of my theme of integrity, I encourage everyone to do something for themselves that makes you happy and brings you joy.  I challenge each of you to commit a random act of kindness for someone else and reach out to someone, just to let them know that you are thinking about them.

Douglas A. Greenbaum, Chair
CLE - Thursday, Nov. 12, 12 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Are you adequately preserving your virtual hearing record? Let’s face it, the practice of law has changed as we know it. Virtual proceedings, in some form or another, are going to be part of the practice of law going forward. Take a lunch break and join board certified appellate lawyers and appellate judges as they discuss potential problems with virtual evidentiary hearings and trials and best practice tips for preserving errors in the virtual world. 1.5 CLE Credits.
12:00 PM – 12:05 PM
Opening Remarks and Introductions
Judge Diana Tennis, Orlando

12:05 PM – 12:10 PM
Issues unique to Virtual Hearings and Trials
Shannon McLin Carlyle, Esq., Orlando
Retired Judge William D. Palmer, Orlando
Nicholas Shannin, Esq., Orlando

12:10 PM – 12:20 PM
Objection Issues
Shannon McLin Carlyle, Esq., Orlando
Retired Judge William D. Palmer, Orlando
Nicholas Shannin, Esq., Orlando

12:20 PM – 12:25 PM
Trial Support
Shannon McLin Carlyle, Esq., Orlando
Retired Judge William D. Palmer, Orlando
Nicholas Shannin, Esq., Orlando

12:25 PM – 12:40 PM
Transcript/ Record Issues
Shannon McLin Carlyle, Esq., Orlando
Retired Judge William D. Palmer, Orlando
Nicholas Shannin, Esq., Orlando
12:40 PM – 12:55 PM
Evidence/ Record Issues
Shannon McLin Carlyle, Esq., Orlando
Retired Judge William D. Palmer, Orlando
Nicholas Shannin, Esq., Orlando

12:55 PM – 1:10 PM
Solving Problems with the Record
Shannon McLin Carlyle, Esq., Orlando
Retired Judge William D. Palmer, Orlando
Nicholas Shannin, Esq., Orlando

1:10 PM – 1:20 PM
Appellate Pipeline- Case Law Update
Shannon McLin Carlyle, Esq., Orlando
Retired Judge William D. Palmer, Orlando
Nicholas Shannin, Esq., Orlando

1:20 PM – 1:25 PM
Questions and Answers
Judge Diana Tennis, Orlando

1:25 AM – 1:30 PM
Closing Remarks
Judge Diana Tennis, Orlando

In collaboration with the Florida Chapter of the AAML, we are excited to present another outstanding Marital & Family Law Review Course (virtually) January 28-29, 2021.

Our premier lineup of Family Law experts will provide participants with critical information in an engaging format. For details on our speakers and topics, visit 2021 Marital and Family Law Review Course.

The 2021 Course has been awarded 15.0 General CLE hours with 2.0 Ethics hours. The 15.0 CLE hours all count towards the Marital & Family Law Certification requirements.

Registrations prior to December 14, 2020 receive a discounted price-per-credit-hour, so sign up today!
From Recent Notable Cases
Mallick v. Mallick, 45 FL. L. Weekly D2355c (Fla. 2nd DCA 2020)

In Mallick, the Former Wife challenged a 2019 supplemental final judgment that modified the parties’ parenting plan to grant majority of time to the Former Husband. The Court affirmed the Judgment. The Former Wife acknowledges that there was a substantial change in material circumstances warranting a modification. On appeal, the Former Wife does not contest the trial court’s findings or the terms of her time-sharing. The Former Wife only contends that the trial court erred by failing to delineate what she must do to regain majority time-sharing with the child and by otherwise failing to outline how she may regain “meaningful” time-sharing.

The Appellate Court recognized that the Former Wife’s argument was meritorious, as there is a split amongst the district courts concerning this issue. The Second, Third, and Fourth District Courts of Appeal have held that when a trial court denies or restricts a parent's time-sharing with his or her child, it must specify steps for the parent to take in order to regain meaningful time-sharing. See, e.g., Grigsby v. Grigsby, 39 So.3d 453, 456–57 (Fla. 2d DCA 2010); Lightsey v. Davis, 267 So.3d 12, 15 (Fla. 4th DCA 2019); Solomon v. Solomon, 251 So.3d 244, 245–46 (Fla. 3d DCA 2018). 

The First and Fifth District Courts of Appeal hold to the contrary, arguing that section 61.13 neither requires nor authorizes courts to prescribe terms beyond the express provisions of the statute. See C.N. v. I.G.C., 291 So.3d 204, 207 (Fla. 5th DCA 2020); Dukes v. Griffin, 230 So.3d 155, 156–57 & 157 n.1 (Fla. 1st DCA 2017).

In Mallick, the Second District Court of Appeal receded from its’ previous opinion in Grigsby v. Grigbsy, 39. So.3d 453 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2010) by holding that a trial court may, in its discretion, specify steps for the parent to take in order to regain meaningful time-sharing. Further, the Appellate Court described what trial courts may consider in exercising such discretion, including a case’s procedural posture. Succinctly, Mallick held that including such steps is no longer a requirement. Although this opinion recedes from Grigsby and the Third and Fourth District Courts of Appeal, it distinguishes itself from the First and Fifth District Courts of Appeal, who have held that including such steps is not authorized by § 61.13, Fla. Stat. As Mallick now distinguishes itself from all of the other district courts, the Second District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s decision and certified conflict on this issue.

Philip J. Schipani is a Board Certified Specialist in Matrimonial & Family Law and Partner with Schipani & Norman, P.A., based in Sarasota. Schipani serves on the Executive Council of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar, and has served as Chair of a number of Committees, including Domestic Violence, Rules & Forms and the Ad Hoc Special Needs Children Committee.
PDF/A And You
It is essential that Family Lawyers familiarize themselves with the PDF/A format to comply with changing e-filing rules and to better store critical client documents long term. A notice at the bottom of the e-filing document upload page on the My Florida Court Access E-Filing Portal reads in red letters: “PDF/A ADVISORY: PDF/A is the preferred filing format.” Understanding what PDF/A is, and why it is preferred, can help motivate filers to make this important change to their filings and other important client documents right away.

What is a PDF/A? PDF/A (Portable Document Format for Archiving) is a type of PDF file that allows electronic documents to be stored long-term. PDF/A’s cannot contain embedded audio, video, or encryption to avoid any obstacles to opening them later. Per Supreme Court of Florida Administrative Order No. AOSC19-23, “Use of PDF/A for the storage of electronic court records will maintain longevity of court PDF files and improve the security and preservation of case-related documents.”

Why does the E-Filing Portal encourage filing in PDF/A? Ordinary PDF files may pose challenges for long-term archiving and storage. PDF’s have detailed information embedded within them. For example, code in a PDF may give it instructions on how to display on a certain type of screen. Similar to a Netflix show that you can’t stream without a 4K television, PDF’s may not read properly on the computers of the future, or on devices we cannot even imagine yet. Using PDF/A format may preserve the integrity of crucial court filings and your clients’ marital agreements for the future.

How soon will PDF/A be the norm? According to the Florida Courts E-Filing Authority PDF/A guide, “once approved by the Florida Supreme Court as the new standard, the PDF/A format will be phased in over the next few years.” PDF/A is already the required filing format in many federal courts, notably including the United States Supreme Court.

How do I start using PDF/A? The E-Filing Authority has suggested that attorneys set PDF/A as their default “PDF” format when saving documents using Word. The Florida Courts E-filing Portal has created a great short video to assist attorneys to adjust their PDF default settings properly. The video is here. Earlier this summer, the Authority posted the “PDF/A Frequently Asked Questions and Other Useful Information” guide, which has additional instructions for Mac users, free online PDF/A converter tools, and more details about this important new file format. The guide is here.

Although the court’s preferred file type is changing, an attorney’s obligation to minimize filing sensitive information, and comply with all other applicable rules of procedure and local protocols, remain in place. In an ever-changing technological world, keeping up with the latest developments will ensure you are ready when the rules change and that your clients are in the best position to defend their interests in the future.

Amber Kornreich is a Family Lawyer in Miami, Florida, at Kornreich & Associates. She is the President of The First Family Law American Inn of Court and a member of the Florida Bar Family Law Section Technology Committee. 

It is a pleasure and honor to be the Co-Chair of the Ad Hoc Diversity and Inclusion Committee this year. 

In the wake of the events of 2020, words like “diversity” and “inclusion” are swirling all around us, which may feel overwhelming. But, might I suggest that we may be overthinking those terms? What do we mean when we talk about diversity and inclusion? We all cheer for promoting diversity and inclusion, but they are not the same concepts, and we do not often take the time to unpack these terms.
Diversity is the “who” of the workforce, the people that make up your teams. Demographic information such as gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, and veteran status feed into this category.

On the other hand, inclusion is the “how,” and is just as important. Inclusion is how you hire, support, and develop the talent on your team. Inclusion is how you create a sense of being valued and belonging within your firm’s culture. You can hire diversity, but you will not retain that diversity if your firm is not inclusive.

The 2019 Vault/MCCA Law Firm Diversity survey offers a useful vantage point and tracks several points, of note. Generally speaking, law firms have (slowly) become more diverse. More than 17% of law firm attorneys are Black, indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC). Summer associates have the largest representation with 33% being BIPOC. Twenty-six percent of associates are BIPOC, as well. However, the percentages of LGBTQ+ attorneys and attorneys with disabilities are staggeringly low. 

The good news is that there is strong support for creating a diverse and inclusive legal community, especially in the Family Law Section. It is not a surprise that the Executive Committee and its members are passionate about driving change. Regardless of their race or background, the newer generation of lawyers are eager to build a real and sustainable culture of equity, not one as it appears on a social media feed or in marketing materials.

Building a sustainable culture of equity means going beyond just voicing solidarity. While social media and marketing are useful at promoting conversation and education, they are a means, not an end. The true endgame requires implementing policies and action plans. A true diversity and inclusion initiative is not fulfilled by having one group or committee, but rather, by sustained commitment to removing systemic disadvantages.

We can implement these initiatives by creating a diversity and inclusion plan that focuses on recruiting practices, diversity in vendors, and a focus on development. Any plan worth its salt has benchmarks established to evaluate success. One of the most important things that the Family Law Section can do is to offer a systematic, ongoing program of mentorship and development for BIPOC attorneys, LGBTQ+ attorneys, and attorneys with mental, physical, and sensory disabilities. Lastly, do not be afraid to reach out!

As the Managing Attorney at Ruggiero Law Firm, P.A., Tiffany D. Ruggiero focuses her practice exclusively on family and divorce law. Helping clients navigate through complicated circumstances while providing them knowledge and experience is her main goal. In addition to litigation, she is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Law Mediator, Guardian Ad Litem and Parenting Coordinator.

On October 15, 2020, the Florida Supreme Court adopted Collaborative forms that were proposed by the Florida Family Court Rules Committee. The forms, which were drafted by experienced Collaborative attorneys throughout Florida, are intended to help attorneys who are not experienced in the Collaborative Process use the Process in their family matters. 

As with the other family forms, they are not required, but they are useful tools. The first form is the form I created to meet the requirement in Rule 4-1.19 of the Rules of Professional Conduct that attorneys must discuss the process choices with their clients. 

The next two forms are different Participation Agreements, the agreement that must be signed at least by the clients for the Collaborative Process to begin. The fourth form can be used to give notice to a court that the parties in a litigated matter have chosen to stay the litigation and use the Collaborative Process. The fifth form is a form I created to advise the clients of the confidential and privileged nature of the Collaborative Process. The sixth form is to amend a Participation Agreement when an attorney has been replaced in a Collaborative matter. 

The seventh form is used to advise the court where pending litigation was paused to use the Collaborative Process but the process was terminated. The last form is a Joint Petition and Verified Answer for Dissolution of Marriage that the clients can sign and file when they have resolved everything through the Collaborative Process. Please feel free to contact me if you have any comments or questions about the forms.

Robert J. Merlin of Law Offices of Robert J. Merlin, P.A., is experienced in several methods of dispute resolution – Collaborative Practice, mediation, direct negotiations, and litigation. Merlin is a Florida Bar Board Certified Family Law Specialist, a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator and has received a significant amount of special, advanced training in the Collaborative Law Process and other areas.
In our "Faces of Family Law" video series, we introduce you to members of the Executive Council and Executive Committee so you can learn more - and feel connected to - your fellow Section colleagues.

This month, we welcome long-time Section member and avid volunteer for a number of organizations, Anthony Genova of Genova Family Law in Miami.

Click the video to learn more about Anthony and some of the benefits he's enjoyed by being involved with the Section.
Long Range Planning
Heather L. Apicella, ESQ., B.C.S., Gladstone & Weissman, P.A., Boca Raton
Mission of the Committee
Planning for the amazing future of the Family Law Section.  

What the Committee does
The Committee addresses any present issues within the Section that may need to be tweaked or changed in the future. The Committee also ensures that the Section’s goals are mapped out and properly planned in order to achieve success in the future.
Goals of the Committee this bar cycle
To identify any areas, which the members believe the Section, may need improvement, while focusing on the goals/purpose of the Section and how to best achieve those goals (or the purpose) on a forward going basis.

How the Committee supports its members, the Section and Florida families
Planning is the key. This Committee is the place to plan.

Something Section members may not know about the Committee
The members of the Long Range Planning Committee are appointed to the Committee. 

How to get involved in the Committee
This Committee is comprised of the 5 members of Executive Committee, 1 Trustee and 3 members of the Executive Council. I strongly encourage anyone who is interested in this Committee to attend the Committee meetings. Involvement (i.e. attendance) at the Committee meetings does not require appointment – we welcome everyone. Of course, any action that needs to be voted on is limited solely to the votes of the appointed members.

Alternative Dispute Resolution
Matthew E. Thatcher, ESQ., B.C.S., The Solomon Law Group, Tampa
Mission of the Committee
The ADR Committee seeks to support, encourage, and facilitate the use of all forms of alternative dispute resolution options for individuals and families in the family court system.

What the Committee does
The ADR Committee discusses issues and trends in dispute resolution. The ADR Committee tries to identify current issues affecting and options for practitioners and parties in mediation, collaborative practice, and settlement discussions. The ADR Committee further provides assistance to the Family Law Section by providing comments and suggested changes as to proposed rule changes that impact our area of practice.

Goals of the Committee this bar cycle
Evaluate and consider what remote technologies and practices should be recommended for continued use in ADR following the COVID‐19 pandemic. Potentially consider recommendations of rule changes to make permanent the remote technology procedures and options.

Publish a monthly ADR Update in the FAMSEG Newsletter Work with Children’s Issues Committee on Arbitration in Matters involving Children Collaborate with other ADR organizations and committees to identify important issues and trends in ADR that may require committee involvement Plan and host a CLE during the bar year.

How the Committee’s work supports its members, the Section and/or Florida’s Families
By encouraging and fostering the resolution of family law matters through alternative non‐adversarial means, the ADR Committee is trying to facilitate the resolution of intra‐family disputes in a manner that reduces conflict, financial and emotional cost, and minimizes resolves contested litigation.

One thing you did not know about the Committee until you joined
I was not aware of the involvement of the ADR Committee, and members of the ADR Committee, in the efforts that ultimately resulted in the successful passage of the Florida Collaborative Practice Act, Fla. Stat. § 61.55, et. seq.

Family Law Facebook Live Series On Demand
The Family Law Section regularly provides valuable information about a variety of topics relevant to family law, including case law updates, tech tips, COVID-19 information, helpful advice for your practice, and much more, through our Facebook Live series.

If you're not a subscriber, click here to join! And click here to see all of the videos we've posted to date. More to come so stay tuned!
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We truly appreciate each and every one of our sponsors! Thank you for helping our committed volunteers as we work on supporting the FLS mission!