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CHAIR'S MESSAGE

FAMSEG was a bit delayed in being issued this month for good reason. Myself and over 50 other individuals associated with The Family Law Section enjoyed a cool and fun-filled weekend in Rhode Island this past weekend. We experienced investment in the next generation in so many ways: we enjoyed the camaraderie of Section Trustees Laura Davis Smith and Doug Greenbaum, Section members brought their children, and we benefitted from the informative CLE Financial Planning for all Generations by Meredith Stoddard of Fidelity Investments. Our land and sea tours of Newport were eye-opening, our final dinner during Waterfire was enchanting, and our time at Simmons Farm was filled with laughter, friendship, and fun. All things considered, my favorite part of our retreat was watching my colleagues forge new relationships, reconnect with family and friends who lived in the area, and simply have a good time. A heartfelt and enthusiastic thank you to the retreat co-chairs Sarah Sullivan and Anya Cintron Stern. Without their vision, dedication, and enthusiasm, we would not have had such a unique and engaging experience. And thank you to the retreat sponsors: The Joseph Firm PA, Anonymous, and Kay Family Law PLLC – you made our time more special.


The Section continues to provide high quality enriching educational experiences. We have our annual case law update webinar, Three Men and a Family Law Case Update on October 19, at 12:00 PM EST– the registration information is below. And, if you have not yet registered for the Section / Florida AAML Marital and Family Law Review Course in January, register today and secure your room. The room block typically sells out in October and the event traditionally sells out in January. We’re back at the Loews Royal Pacific at Universal, so bring your family to make the most of the weekend.


Have you heard? The Office of the State Court Administrator (“OSCA”) together with The Family Law Section of The Florida Bar are presenting day-long workshops at 11 locations throughout Florida to create and sustain partnerships between the local courts, local practitioners, and local psychological resources to develop trauma-informed family courts in every Florida circuit. The first events are in Jacksonville and Gainesville in November and Orlando and Daytona Beach in December. The full schedule is listed below. Please regularly check the Section’s website HERE for more information. We expect the registrations for the November events will be posted any day now. It is unprecedented for OSCA to partner with The Bar for court education and I can’t think of a more worthy reason to do so than to promote and foster trauma-informed and trauma-responsive courts better equipped to serve Florida’s families. I am profoundly grateful for the vision and commitment of The Hon. Jack Helinger of the 6th Judicial Circuit which sparked this worthy project and Rose Patterson, Chief of Court Education of OSCA, for embracing this project with zeal, giving it life.


It is exciting to see Section members investing in the next generation throughout our golden year. If you haven’t joined us for one or more of our events, it’s not too late. We’re only three months into the bar cycle – we have another nine months of outstanding opportunities yet to come.


Sarah E. Kay, B.C.S.

Chair, 2023-2024

'SEEN ON THE SCENE'

Section members gather for a 50th Anniversary group photo at The Ritz Carlton, Naples - August 2023.


Just a reminder to bookmark our website photo gallery HERE to see the latest photos from various Section events. We'll be adding galleries throughout the year, so check back often (and smile when you see the camera! )

MID-YEAR MEETINGS AND 2024 MARITAL & FAMILY LAW REVIEW COURSE REGISTRATION IS OPEN

January 24-27, 2024 | Loews Royal Pacific Resort Orlando

Registration is now open for our Mid-Year Meetings and the 2024 Marital & Family Law Review Course, taking place at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort in Orlando, January 24-27, 2024.


To download a PDF of Mid-Year Meeting Committee Schedule, click HERE.


To learn more about hotel reservations and the Review Course, visit the AAML website HERE.

CLE: 'THREE MEN AND A FAMILY LAW CASE UPDATE 2023'

Thursday, Oct. 19, 12pm - 1:30pm EST

This online webinar will inform participants of recent appellate opinions addressing different topics within Florida Marital & Family Law. Our three speakers will cover a litany of topics from Florida’s newest family law cases, and discuss certain trends within the different appellate courts around Florida. 1.5 CLE credit.


NOTE: Registration will open later this week - bookmark the button below!

REGISTRATION INFO

FAMILY LAW SECTION AND OFFICE OF THE STATE COURTS ADMINISTRATOR LAUNCH STATEWIDE SERIES OF TRAUMA WORKSHOPS

The Family Law Section and the Office of The State Courts Administrator have partnered to present a market-specific, customized Trauma Workshop series that will take place 11 districts throughout the State.


The purpose of the workshops is to create - and sustain - a partnership between the local court, local practitioners, and local psychological resources to develop trauma-informed family courts in each circuit. The target audience will include judges and magistrates who hear domestic relations cases, family law attorneys, and court staff. The goal is to better serve Florida’s families by cultivating trauma-informed and trauma-responsive domestic relations courts. 


This intense, interactive workshop will address the impact of toxic stress, adverse childhood experiences, resiliency, self-care technology, and guiding principles for family courts. CLE, CJE, CEU credits are pending and should be available shortly.


The schedule is below and more information and registration will soon be available HERE.

MORE INFO HERE

TRUSTEE SPOTLIGHT

The Honorable Renee Goldenberg, Section Chair, 1995-96

In honor of the Section's 50th Anniversary, we're sitting down with some of our Trustees to talk about some of the highlights of their year as Chair of the Family Law Section.


I was Chair of the Family Law Section from 1995-1996 but have been involved in the Section since my last year of law school in 1984. Marsha Elser and Judge Lewis Kapner, both having been Chairs of the Section, were adjunct professors teaching a course I took my last semester of law school, Family Law Litigation Workshop, and invited the class to observe an Executive Council meeting. After being warmly welcomed by the Family Law Section Executive Council members as a guest, a discussion ensued about how to promote the course I was in to be given throughout the State at all the law schools. I offered suggestions, and soon found myself the Chair of a newly created Law School Liaison Committee, asked to gather members, and promote the ideas. I was thereafter an active member of the Family Law Section, serving on and leading many Committees, seeing the end of “fault” in a dissolution of marriage, to passage of the shared parental responsibility act, equitable distribution, and participated in so much more in the creation of Florida Family Law. I watched the Family Law Section be recognized as a significant entity in the Florida Bar with a large and growing membership in the thousands, and family law cases nearly fifty percent of civil cases in Florida.


For the annual retreat my year as Chair of the Section, 1995-1996, as I lived in Fort Lauderdale, I decided to have the retreat in my hometown. I felt that with my knowledge of the city, and the fact that South Florida itself had a large number of family lawyers, I could promote what I wanted as the theme of my year, inclusion of all family lawyers in the state in the Family Law Section. Although the events of the retreat took place in the Marriott Harbor Beach Hotel, we also retained blocks of rooms in two alternative hotels within walking distance, a second lower mid-price, and a third, very low-priced budget hotel. We included most meals in the retreat. Our attendance was overwhelming, and included many government family lawyers, and new family lawyers with limited means. Our Saturday night celebration with a live band saw the most participants to that point that we had at a Family Law Section retreat. I look forward to the upcoming next local South Florida retreat and recommend that the committee in charge consider following that path of inclusion with alternative lower priced hotels.


In my tenure as Chair of the Section, 1995-1996, we saw the passage of the Guardian Ad Litem statute, which as a member of the Executive Council, I helped write, and I lobbied in Tallahassee for its passage. While on the Executive Council, I participated in the promotion of the creation of the Family Law Rules of Procedure and Rules Committee. I was a member of the initial Family Law Rules Committee, when we drafted the first Family Law Rules. The Family Law Rules of Procedure were initially adopted during my year as Section Chair, a significant advancement in the practice of family law in Florida.


The family lawyers in leadership of the Family Law Section and on its committees have always been those interested in advancing the mission of the Section: “promoting the highest standards of professionalism and legal advocacy in the delivery of a wide array of services to Florida families as we seek the consistent, fair, and expeditious administration of justice.” As I recently attended the 50th anniversary celebration and Executive Council meeting in Naples, I am very impressed with how the Section leadership and membership in 2023 is executing its mission statement, and how with excellence we are advancing into the next fifty years under the leadership of Sarah Kay, the current Chair of the Section.

 

I am so grateful for the lifelong friends I have made in the nearly forty years of participation in the Family Law Section.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AWARENESS MONTH

October 1-30

By: Fritznie Jarbath, Esq.


As I close my eyes tonight and give thanks and praise for the blessings in my life, I take the time to remember that there are many others that do not have a safe space to rest their heads tonight because 1 in 3 women and 1 in in 4 men in the U.S. will experience, physical violence, rape, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime[1]. This does not just happen to cisgender women either. Did you know that 1 in 4 gay men, 1 in 3 bisexual men and 3 in 10 men will also experience this in their lifetime[2]. Nearly 2 in 5 transgender people report having experienced intimate partner violence or other forms of coercive control and or physical harm[3].


This is not just a problem that affects adults. 1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence[4]. And I should know, as a child, I witnessed it as well.

 

And let me tell you, it changes you.

 

It helped shape me into the family law advocate I am today. And while many family law attorneys may not have been exposed to it personally, it is only a matter of time before they are exposed to it in one of their family law cases. Sometimes, the client will tell them outright what happened, and shout it to the rooftops to anyone that will listen. Sometimes, they will whisper it quietly, after assurances of attorney-client privilege are given. Other times, they will never let the story see the light of day, as if breathing air into it will suddenly choke the life right of them. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that despite the staggering statistics listed above, most domestic violence instances are never reported. If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, it still makes a sound. It still has an effect. The effect of domestic violence continues to ripple through our communities like a venomous snake.

 

Unfortunately, minority communities appear to suffer the most. Almost half of American Indian/Alaskan Native women suffer physical, sexual violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime[5]. When looking at domestic violence instances across the different races, the numbers are staggering. 45.1% of non-Hispanic Black women, 37.3% of non-Hispanic White women, 34.4% of Hispanic women, and 18.3% of Asian-Pacific Islander women experience physical violence, sexual violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetimes[6]. The numbers above are national averages, and they vary by state and year by year. But overall, it paints a bleak and dim picture.

 

Let’s not forget that Florida has one of the largest immigrant populations in the U.S. The immigrant population is one of the most vulnerable populations. Because of their status, immigrants can be threatened with deportation. The abuser will often use citizenship or residency to keep the cycle of power and abuse going forward. Abusers will often fail to file papers to legalize the victim’s immigration status or threaten to withdraw papers filed on their behalf, or even withhold or hide immigration documents once they have been mailed out.[7] Abusers sometimes do not stop there, including using the children as bargaining chips. They will threaten to separate the parent from the child, by getting the parent or the child deported/removed from the U.S. Immigration has done something about this. In 1994, Congress created the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which allows an abused partner of any gender a path to legalization. While there may be a solution in some immigration cases, it does not solve all the problems.

 

Domestic violence is a problem that permeates all over.

 

Make no assumptions.

 

Domestic violence does not discriminate. It can touch anyone, despite age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, education, income, political affiliation, immigration status. . . everything.

 

As family law practitioners, we are often only presented with one piece of the puzzle. The client will paint us one picture, usually it is one-dimensional and black & white. Oftentimes, we are tasked with giving it depth and providing some color. We are tasked with advocating our client’s position while simultaneously ­­­­campaigning our client’s position of what is best for the minor children.

 

While I applaud the tireless efforts of family law practitioners, I worry that the silent tears of these abuse victims will slip past unnoticed. Since October is domestic violence awareness month, let us all take the time to think of ways that we can help.

 

Every individual’s time, money or skill set is different. So each person’s help may take a different form. But everyone can help, in their own way. Take the time to educate yourself on how you can do that. By answering the unasked questions, by having resources readily available to those that too scared, too shocked, too wracked with guilt or denial and/or suffering from PTSD to even think to ask, by donating time or money, you can help. Start the conversation today.

                                                                                                                      

What will you do in the month of October to join the fight against domestic violence?


[1] https://ncadv.org/STATISTICS

[2] https://www.safehorizon.org/get-informed/domestic-violence-statistics-facts/#statistics-and-facts/

[3] https://www.americanprogress.org/article/frequently-asked-questions-domestic-violence-firearms/

[4] https://ncadv.org/STATISTICS

[5] https://www.safehorizon.org/get-informed/domestic-violence-statistics-facts/#statistics-and-facts/

[6] https://www.safehorizon.org/get-informed/domestic-violence-statistics-facts/#statistics-and-facts/

[7] https://www.thehotline.org/wp-content/uploads/media/2020/09/Power-Control-Wheel.pdf

CASE LAW UPDATE

By: Cash A. Eaton, Esq.


Tucker v. Tucker, 2023 WL 4372886 (Fla. 2d DCA 2023).

 

In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness month, the case being reviewed is the Second District case Tucker v. Tucker, 2023 WL 4372886 (Fla. 2d DCA 2023).

 

Tucker involved an original dissolution of marriage action involving short-term marriage. The parties were married on May 13, 2017, and separated on September 25, 2019. The parties had one minor child born in 2019.The Wife initially filed a petition seeking shared parental responsibility and majority timesharing. The Husband filed a counterpetition seeking shared parental responsibility and that he be awarded majority timesharing. Subsequently, the Wife filed an amended petition requesting sole parental responsibility and that the Husband’s timesharing be supervised. Her amended petition alleged that the Husband suffers from significant anger and alcohol issues and has made disturbing statements pertaining to the child. Sadly, the trial court found more than that.

 

Over the course of a two-day trial, the evidence showed that the Husband does in fact have significant and long-standing anger issues. There was testimony establishing numerous instances of physical and severe verbal abuse directed at Former Wife, the parties’ child, and even their nanny. Moreover, the evidence showed an established history of the Husband threatening to slit the throat of the family dog and threatening to throw the child against the wall because he could not get the child to stop crying. The trial court awarded the Wife sole parental responsibility and limiting the Husband to supervised timesharing. Also, the trial court ordered the Husband to participate in counseling, abstain from consuming alcohol, and attending AA meetings.

 

The Husband appealed. On appeal, he argued that the trial court abused its discretion in awarding sole parental responsibility and timesharing. The Appellate Court affirmed in awarding supervised timesharing. The Appellate Court reasoned that there was clearly substantial, competent evidence for supervised timesharing. Accordingly, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in making that award. The same was true in awarding sole parental responsibility. The trial court affirmatively found that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the minor child, as required by § 61.13, Fla. Stat. Further,

 

However, the trial court did not address the domestic violence incidences in its Order. Nevertheless, the Appellate Court found that there was competent, substantial evidence to support awarding sole parental responsibility. The Appellate Court reasoned that because incidents of domestic violence create a rebuttable presumption of detriment to a child, the ruling was not an abuse of discretion and should not be overturned.

 

Also, the Husband argued that the trial court committed erred by establishing a path for him to be awarded shared parental responsibility and unsupervised timesharing. However, it is important for attorneys and judges to remember there is no requirement to establish such a path. The Florida Supreme Court, in C.N. v. I.G.C., 316 So. 3d 287 (Fla. 2021), held that there is no requirement that the trial court give a parent “concrete steps” to restore lost time-sharing. Therefore, this was not an error.

 

Finally, the Husband, in the ultimate act of cutting off his nose despite his face, argued that the trial court erred by requiring him to participate in counseling, abstain from consuming alcohol, and attend AA meetings. The Appellate Court agreed. It held that this was an abuse of discretion. The Wife had sole parental responsibility. The Husband was only able to exercise supervised timesharing. Therefore, these mandates and prohibitions were not tied to the exercising of timesharing, so this exceeded the trial court’s authority.

TECH TIPS

By: Jennifer L. Darley, Esq.


As a busy family law practitioner, I am always on the search for tricks or tech to help me increase my productivity and save time. One of the areas where I feel that my time is wasted is in navigating to files and websites.


How many times a day do you have to go through the process of opening folder after folder to get to the file you are looking for? For me, I generally must open file explorer, find the drive I am looking for (because you know it can’t just go to the last place you were or most used drives), and then go through the process of opening folder after folder to get to the one I am searching for. The same can be said for my bookmarks on my browser. I must find the bookmark folder that my bookmark is saved in and then find the bookmark. These repetitive steps are time wasters. Some would suggest placing a shortcut on my desktop; however, I cannot stand the clutter of 100 shortcuts, and it is almost just as difficult to find the shortcuts, when there are so many, as it can be to go through the folders.


I believe I have found my solution: Stream Deck.


While Stream Deck is mainly marketed as a tool for “streamers,” I have found it useful in my legal practice. Steam Deck is a device that you can attach to your computer and then program the buttons to perform functions, skipping all the steps you would have normally taken to get to your final location or page. With my Stream Deck, I have been able to program it (which is a simple process for those of us that do not know coding) to, with the touch of a button, open my email, take me to my QuickBooks Online, or open a specific file location. As a visual person, being able to program the buttons with images of the websites or programs is also a game changer for me. With a quick glance, I can press my E-Portal button and my browser will open to the E-Portal page. While there are other ways to navigate to these locations in less steps, I have yet to find such a quick and accessible way to do so in only one step. While I continue to explore its functionality and other actions that it can perform in programs such as Zoom and for time-tracking, I am saving time with the buttons I have programmed.


Jennifer L. Darley is a licensed attorney with the Florida Bar and practices in Central Florida with her firm, Jennifer L. Darley, P.A. Her practice is devoted to family law. Ms. Darley is not affiliated with nor has an interest in Stream Deck and does not receive any compensation from Stream Deck.

THE EMPLOYEE RETENTION TAX CREDIT - A MARITAL ASSET?

By: Jason Soman, CPA/ABC, ASA, CFE, CDFA


Did you know that there might be a hidden source of cash for business owners during divorce cases in the form of a popular tax credit?


You may have come across the term "Employee Retention Tax Credit" (ERC) through robo-calls or news reports, but its relevance is often overlooked in family law cases. This article explains why this tax credit should be on the radar of every divorce lawyer in the post-COVID-19 era.


The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), signed into law on March 27, 2020, introduced a refundable tax credit known as the ERC. This credit was designed to assist employers in retaining their employees during government-imposed mandates or shutdowns.

Through subsequent rounds of legislation, the ERC now offers a refundable payroll tax credit of up to $26,000 per eligible employee for wages paid between March 13, 2020, and September 30, 2021.[1] This program worked alongside the popular Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), enabling employers to benefit from both government initiatives. [2]


To qualify for the ERC, employers must meet one of the following criteria[3]:

  • They were subject to government shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 or the first three calendar quarters of 2021.
  • They experienced a significant decline in gross receipts during the eligibility periods in 2020 or the first three calendar quarters of 2021.
  • They qualified as a recovery startup business during the third or fourth quarters of 2021.


Importantly, these tax credits can be applied retroactively. Business owners can amend their payroll tax returns using IRS Form 941-X until 2025 to claim the credit. Since the ERC is refundable, business owners can potentially receive millions of dollars in refund checks during and after a divorce case.


Family law attorneys should seek information during the discovery process to determine if a business owner has claimed or plans to claim the ERC, as the impact of this credit on the final distribution of assets can amount to millions of dollars. However, due to the retroactive nature of the credit and current processing delays at the IRS, it may not be evident in the documents typically produced until after filing or after the final judgment of divorce.

 

Jason H. Soman, CPA/ABV, ASA, CFE, CDFA® is a forensic accountant and business valuator located in Boca Raton, Florida. Mr. Soman specializes in advising legal counsel and clients on issues relating to business valuation, spousal support, and other financial forensic issues in divorce matters.


[1] Businesses considered “Recovery Startup Businesses” as defined by 26 USC § 3134(c)(5) can claim the ERC for eligible wages paid in the Third and the Fourth Quarters of 2021, and are limited to a $50,000 credit per calendar quarter.

[2] Subject to limitations. “Employers can’t claim the ERC on wages that were reported as payroll costs for Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness.” (https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/employee-retention-credit)  

[3] https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/employee-retention-credit

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 family law-related 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!

SPONSORS WANTED!

Did you know that our Section Sponsorship has grown over the years? We have received 8 times the number of sponsorships that we had 7 years ago! Thank you to all of our past and current sponsors for supporting the mission of the Family Law Section! To learn more about getting involved, click HERE.

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