The Family Law Section of the Florida Bar has just completed our virtual fall committee and Executive Council meetings. Originally, when I planned the fall meetings, I chose The Don CeSar, a picturesque location on St. Petersburg Beach. At the time of our initial planning, I never imagined that a worldwide pandemic would necessitate fall meetings being held virtually--dashing our tradition of providing membership opportunities to sit down and interact with one another in the same room. Once the pandemic became a reality, it became obvious that we needed to be open-minded and accept that life does not always go as planned.

This is a familiar theme for many of our clients, as well. We can all agree that most people who get married do not expect that they will end up divorced; or when a child is born, one of the parents will have to go to Court to establish rights to see their child. Attorneys’ duties include planning how we will present our case while simultaneously anticipating how the other party will present their case to the court. Now that school has commenced in Florida, different parts of our state have very different governing policies regarding how children attend school, whether in person or virtually. When two parents don’t see eye-to-eye on parenting decisions, adding a pandemic and difficult school choices complicates the delicate balance of timesharing. Attorneys can play a significant role in facilitating those litigating parents to not to focus on their differences but on their common interests. Attorneys as well as clients can learn by listening and opening our minds to differing points of view. 

Every time we interact with a person, we impact someone’s life, even if we do not realize that impact at the time. This poem from Science of Mind magazine, captures this sentiment best:

If not for you, all the good you have done would still need doing.
If not for you, the spark of your ideas would not have ignited a fire in others.
If not for you, at least one person would not have awakened to their dreams.
If not for you, your triumphs could not be examples to inspire others.
You have always made a difference. Who you are is important every day.

You matter. Your opinion matters. Please remember this.

Douglas A.Greenbaum, Chair
January 28-29, 2021
We are overwhelmed by the positive response we have received from our Save the Date announcement about the 2021 Marital and Family Law Review Course! In collaboration with the Florida Chapter of the AAML, we are truly excited to present another outstanding program in January.

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.

There were added costs to switching the 2021 Course to a flagship virtual platform. Nevertheless, we made the difficult decision to temporarily shift from our beloved in-person conference format in January for everyone's health, safety, and welfare. We implemented discounts from the 2020 event pricing to help maintain the program as affordable as possible for everyone.  

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.

Registration opens on September 8, 2020.  And, if you register before December 14, 2020, you'll receive an exceptional price-per-credit-hour value for the Course, which you can attend from the comfort and safety of your home or office:
We hope you will join us for the Marital & Family Law Review Course 2021 Virtual Edition the afternoon of Thursday, January 28, 2021 and all day Friday, January 29, 2021. More details and the registration link will be available at 2021 Marital and Family Law Review Course website. 

See you soon!

Sarah E. Kay, Esq., BCS
Chair, 2021 Certification Review Course
CLE - Thursday, Sept. 10, 12 p.m. - 1 p.m.
In this unprecedented time of social distancing and remote learning, co-parenting is more challenging than ever. Parenting apps offer family lawyers and their clients valuable tools to help navigate these difficult times and potentially de-escalate family stress and conflict. Join Judge Sarah Willis (also a former General Magistrate) and Mediator Ana Cristina Maldonado as they explore the ways that technology can address specific co-parenting issues. You will learn about the different apps and receive a cost and function comparison of popular co-parenting applications including Our Family Wizard and Talking Parents. This course offers 1 Technology CLE Credit.
12:00pm - 12:05pm
Welcome and Introductions
Jennifer Miller-Morse, Delray Beach, FL

12:05pm - 12:30pm
Co-Parenting Issues to Address with Technology
Honorable Sarah Willis, West Palm Beach, FL

12:30pm - 12:50pm
Comparison of Available Apps
Ana Cristina Maldonado, West Palm Beach, FL

12:50pm - 1:00pm
Questions and Answers
From Recent Notable Cases
Fernandez v. Fernandez, 45 Fla. L. Weekly D1841a. (Fla 3rd DCA 2020)

Generally, the obligation of a parent to support a child ceases when the child reaches majority, but an exception arises when the child is, from physical or mental deficiencies, unable to support herself. Perla v. Perla, 58 So.2d 689, 690 (Fla. 1952), Florida law imposes a duty of support upon a parent for an adult dependent child who is unable to support herself because of a mental or physical incapacity that began prior to the child reaching majority. See Brown v. Brown, 714 So. 2d 475 (Fla. 5th DCA 1998); Monitzer v. Monitzer, 600 So. 2d 575 (Fla. 2d DCA 1992); Fincham v. Levin, 155 So. 2d 883 (Fla. 1st DCA 1963). 

In this matter, a dependent adult child filed a petition in circuit court for support from her father, which was brought before the local Family Division. The dependent child was born into an intact family and was born with Down Syndrome. Her parents divorced in 2001 and entered into a Marital Settlement Agreement which provided for child support until the age of 18. The dependent adult child has an IQ between 60-70 and is missing fingers on one hand. At the time her petition was filed, she was 27, dependent and requiring daily financial and physical assistance from her mother due to her disability.

The father moved to dismiss the petition, claiming that the Circuit Court, Family Division was without subject-matter jurisdiction. The father claimed that the dependent, adult child was barred from bringing the action because there was no provision in the Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage that provided for child support beyond the age of majority, nor was there any attempt, while the dependent, adult child was still a minor, to modify or extend support. Trial Court granted the father’s motion and dismissed the petition upon the finding that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. After denying the adult dependent child’s motion for re-hearing the trial court granted the father’s motion for fees pursuant to §57.105.

The Third DCA reversed stating that the Circuit Court, Family Division had jurisdiction. The District Court reasoned “Fla. Stat. § 743.07(2) preserves the common law right to seek adult dependent support from a parent in a court of competent jurisdiction when such dependency is the result of a mental or physical incapacity which began prior to such person reaching majority. The circuit court of competent jurisdiction for such a cause of action and the trial court had subject-matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the petition seeking adult support.” 

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.
Important Considerations for Law Firm Cloud Computing
Cloud computing has revolutionized the way law firms store data, collaborate, and manage their practices. There are numerous cloud options ranging from free Dropbox accounts to cloud computing software-as-a-service specific to law practices. Here are important points to consider when evaluating cloud computing options.

1.    Terms of Service. When evaluating a cloud computing option, carefully review the terms of service.

  • Third-Party Access: You should know if the cloud service provider would allow third parties to access your data. Ideally, your data is encrypted, and no third parties have access.

  • Data Ownership: Review the terms of service to ensure that when your cloud computing relationship is terminated your firm owns all data stored with the cloud computing service.  

  • Data Retention: Know what happens to your data after terminating service. Does the cloud service delete your data after your relationship has terminated?    

2.    Location of Cloud Computing Service. Where is the service located? What country will your firm’s data be stored in? Are there multiple redundant locations?
3.    Security. Florida Bar Ethics Opinion 12-3 states lawyers may use cloud computing services provided client confidentiality, data security and lawyer access are maintained.    

  • Encryption: If your law firm’s data is stored on the cloud it should be encrypted. Review the cloud service provider’s encryption process. For example, is your data encrypted in transit between your office and the cloud computing service’s servers? Make sure to ensure the encryption level is 256-bit (“AES256”) or above.      
  • Security Keys: Ask if the cloud computing service provides a security key(s) and who holds the security key(s).

  • Access: Firm data stored on the cloud should not be accessed with the same password used across multiple platforms. Use a long, unique, and randomly generated password. Ensure that two-factor authentication is required for access to your data. The most common form of two-factor authentication is receiving a code by text and while two-factor authentication by text is much better than a password alone, SMS text messages can be hacked. The optimal choice is to explore the use of authenticator apps and keys. Cloud service providers, such as Google, offer a security key to add another layer of data protection: Remember, before using a security key, understand how your data will be recovered in the event the key is lost.             

  • Administration: Carefully consider who administers access to the law firm’s data stored on the cloud. In the 21st century law practice environment, it is imperative that lawyers educate themselves on how to administer and control access to the firm’s data. The lawyer(s) responsible for clients’ files and data should have ultimate control of who can access the firm’s data. Consider the scenario of a disgruntled employee leaving. Make sure you can instantly restrict the former employee’s access to your firm’s data.
4.    Backup. It is important to educate yourself on recovery procedures with your cloud service provider and back-up your data. What happens if your data is lost? Do you have a back-up? Does your cloud service provider have data recovery procedures?

5.    Calendar Reviews. Due to the evolving nature of technology and cloud computing vendors, your firm should calendar regular reviews of your firm’s data security and cloud computing practices, procedures, and vendors. What was adequate in 2013 may not be adequate now.     

Christopher Taylor is a family law attorney based in Ponte Vedra, Florida, a member of The Florida Bar Family Law Section Technology Committee and the Florida Family Law American Inn of Court in Jacksonville, Florida.  

Co-Chair, Ad Hoc Diversity and Inclusion Committee
These are difficult and turbulent times, and as we take stock of what is important to us personally and professionally, we realize the importance of community. The Ad Hoc Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the Family Law Section invites all Section members to share their thoughts on ways in which our Section can increase diversity in its membership. You will be seeing a monthly article in FAMSEG from one of our Committee members.

The Chair of the Family Law Section, Doug Greenbaum, Esq., in his introductory message, indicated that his theme for the year was “Integrity”, which he defined as “doing the right thing even when no one is watching.” Integrity calls for us to be tolerant of views different from our own, to be tolerant of other cultures, and to be vigilant when those around us are being treated unfairly.

We want to be part of a movement which improves our profession. We can do that by improving the Diversity in our membership, and we can do that be learning about the experience others in our profession go through.

The American Bar Association now as a section of their website dedicated to the issue of Diversity and Inclusion. They recognize the importance of Diversity and Inclusion in our profession.

I discovered the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession (ILLP) through my involvement with the Ad Hoc Diversity and Inclusion Committee. The IILP Review 2019-2020 published an Article which suggested that there is a moral obligation for legal professionals to encourage diversity in the profession. They referred to it as the proper and right thing to do. Our Chair has made “Integrity” the theme for his year as the leader of our Section. Finding ways to increase Diversity in our profession and the Section is a way to demonstrate our integrity. It is the right thing to do.

Tiffany Ruggiero, Esq., my Co-Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and myself, are hoping that we can make all Section members part of the conversation. Reach out to either Tiffany or me at; send us your thoughts on the manner in which you believe we can increase Diversity in our Section or topics, which our Diversity and Inclusion Committee can tackle.

Robert Kennedy once said, “Ultimately, America’s answer to the intolerant man is diversity.” Let's become part of the solution to the intolerance we see around us.

We wish you all to be safe and well.
Dealing With Grief During the Pandemic
There are few moments in your life where your response to a situation may define you forever. The COVID 19 crisis is one of those moments. It is our generational war. We are all facing enormous new and uncomfortable challenges and are attempting to figure out how to cope with the new normal. Make sure to fight for your clients the best way you know how, but do not forget to fight for yourself and your own time.

One of the things we should be most grateful for is our relationships with family, friends and community. In 1938, the Harvard Happiness Study was initiated. The study, which continues to this day, originally followed 724 men throughout their lifetimes to determine what makes people happy. The results definitively showed that the most important factor leading to happiness was the quality of relationships in our lives. People who are more socially connected to family, friends, and community were shown to be significantly happier, physically healthier, and live longer than people who are less connected. This is the time to nurture your relationships and reach out to your community to strengthen your connections as this brings true purpose and meaning into our lives.

We are all experiencing various levels of grief for losing a way of life that we thought was normal. We feel that we took that way of life for granted. Gone are the days you could comfortably go to your favorite restaurant, or out with a large group of friends or family to celebrate an accomplishment. Most are walking slowly through the stages of grief, feeling victimized, then angry, frustrated, and ultimately helpless. We must help ourselves and each other recognize what we are going through and reach the final and healthy stage of grief where we discover acceptance.

In the right circumstances, this acceptance can lead to peace and meaning and will allow us to reexamine our own meaning and purpose. We must take time to ourselves to address the following questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. What do I want?
  3. What is my purpose?
  4. What am I grateful for?

In answering these questions, we can redirect our lives in a way to positively affect our work, relationships and choices in the future.

Take a deep breath and rest assured, there is exciting progress in the search for therapeutics and vaccines to treat and prevent the virus. It is my firm medical belief that we will see promising results for a therapeutic treatment and possibly even prevention of the disease in the next few months. With over 100 vaccine candidates in the works, I am confident we will see successful results from a phase 3 trial of a vaccine by the end of 2020 or the first quarter of 2021.

In the meantime, do the right thing, help yourself and others wade through the stages of grief to acceptance. Re-exam your life and purpose, and solidify your relationships with family, friends, and community. Doing so will allow you to not just survive this pandemic, but also thrive as it ends. Above all else, take care of yourselves and others. 

Dr. Andrew Schimel, M.D. is a physician and Managing Partner at the Center For Excellence in Eye Care in Miami and is an Assistant Professor at Florida International University.
In our "Faces of Family Law" video series, we introduce you to various members of the Executive Council and Executive Committee, to help you learn more - and feel connected to - your fellow Section colleagues. This month, we welcome Attorney John Foster of Family Complex Litigation and Collaborative Group in Orlando, and long-time member of the Section.

Click the video to learn more about John and some of the benefits he's enjoyed by being involved with the Section.
Shannon M. Carlyle, Esq., B.C.S., Florida Appeals, Orlando
Matthew E. Thatcher, Esq., B.C.S., The Solomon Law Group, P.A., Tampa 
Mission of the Committee:
The Appellate Committee seeks to ensure that family law matters are resolved based upon a fair and equitable application of law.

What the Committee does:
The Appellate Committee stands as a volunteer Amicus Curiae committee for the Family Law section to submit Amicus Curiae briefs in cases of importance where the Family law section has determined that a position for the section should be advanced to an appellate court. The Appellate Committee also seeks to educate trial practitioners as to best practices to present evidentiary proceedings so that a proper appellate record can be preserved and issues susceptible to appeal not be waived.

Goals of the Committee this bar cycle:
-      Change name of committee on website (Accomplished);
-      Increase awareness of the appellate committee within the Family law section; 
-      Organize appellate oriented CLE with the CLE committee; 
-      Have appellate related articles in Commentator and FAMSEG

How the Committee’s work supports its members, the Section and/or Florida’s Families:
The Appellate Committee has been the voice for the Family law section through its past filing of Amicus Curiae briefs.

One thing you did not know about the Committee until you joined:
Prior to the last bar year, the appellate committee was primarily focused upon its Amicus Curiae duties. This meant that the role of the committee was to proverbially wait in the wings until a sufficient issue arose to warrant the drafting of an Amicus Curiae brief if approved by the leadership of the Family law section. However, the mission has changed now that the committee is the appellate committee, with both the scope of objectives expanded to support the Family Law Section’s Appellate lawyers and practice.
Special Needs
Philip J. Schipani, Esq., B.C.S., Schipani & Norman, P.A., Sarasota
 Laurel Tesmer, Esq., McCart & Tesmer, P.A., Riverview
The Special Needs Children’s Committee consists of (a) reviewing, drafting, and proposing updates to legislation, rules of procedure, and forms to ensure the rights of children with disabilities and/or special needs are promoted, met, improved, and respected; and (b) to educate and promote awareness among family law practitioners and the judiciary regarding the unique needs and rights of children with disabilities and/or special needs.

The Special Needs Children’s Committee was established after the first CLE on Special Needs Children and Divorce was held in October 2019 by then then Chair, Amy Hamlin, Esq. The committee works to develop resources for, and educate family law practitioners about children with special needs. 

Our goals this year are to develop a parenting plan form that addresses disabled and special needs children, and to continually educate family law practitioners about the unique needs and rights of children with disabilities and special needs.

There has been an increase in the proper diagnosis of children with disabilities and special needs as well as advances in therapeutic treatment of these issues. It is often difficult for intact families to navigate and implement different therapies and treatments for their disabled or special needs children. It can be a full-time job parenting a special needs child and these parents are often left to feel like they are alone, not understood, and not supported by their communities. When you add family law issues, whether it is a dissolution or marriage or paternity case, to the mix, parents with special needs children often times feel even less understood and supported. When on the contrary, parents of special needs children, when going through one of the most difficult situations in their life, need to feel like their attorneys support them, understand them, and will advocate for what is best for their children. Often, family law practitioners are not familiar with the special considerations and the accommodations disabled and special needs children require. Without this knowledge, parenting plans and other provisions in a family law matter may not adequately address the best interest of these children. 

Support the Family Law Section with a Signature Annual Sponsorship to showcase your firm or business and connect with our nearly 4,000 professional members. 

For info on our additional Sponsorship Levels, please feel free to email Shannon McLin Carlyle (, Sponsorship Committee Chair. 

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!