I want to thank everyone who virtually attended our 2021 Marital and Family Law Review Course, which welcomed more than 1,600 attendees. I would like to acknowledge and thank Sarah Kay, Michelle Klinger-Smith, Kristin Kirkner and Jerry Rumph who comprise the AAML Review Committee. They devoted many hours behind the scenes to ensure that the program was a resounding success! Additionally, I would like to acknowledge and thank our Section Administrator, Willie Mae Shepherd, and AAML Liaison, Susan Stafford, for their hard work and dedication in making sure this important program went flawlessly.

I also want to congratulate the 2021 Visionary Award Recipient. Every year during the AAML Certification Review Course, the Chair of the Family Law Section is designated with the task of determining the recipient of the Visionary Award, which is given to an individual who has made major contributions to the advancement of family law within the State of Florida. This year, I chose Sarah Sullivan as our 2021 Visionary Award recipient. Congratulations Sarah! You are so deserving of this award. (See the 'Surprised Sarah' video below!)

The Section will hold our mid-year committee meetings in a virtual format on February 5, 2021. The committee meetings are open to anyone who would like to attend, regardless of whether you are currently active on one of the Section’s committees. The committee schedule is posted on our website, and I encourage you to attend any meeting that interests you.  

This is also the time of year when Heather Apicella, the Chair-Elect, makes her committee appointments for 2021-2022 Bar cycle. The committee preference forms along with the applications for the Legislation Committee and Executive Council are posted on our website. You can click on the link below to access the forms. The last day to apply is March 15, 2021. I cannot stress enough that committee work is so rewarding in many ways; do not miss out on the opportunity to become involved.  

In closing, I leave you with this quote:

“My Mother would say don’t sit around and complain about things. Do something. So, I did something.” -- Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States

Douglas A. Greenbaum, Chair
We invite anyone who is interested in attending our 2021 Winter Committee Meetings to register today (it's free!). Whether you're involved on a committee or not, we encourage you to log on and participate in whatever topic that interests you. A complete schedule can be found by clicking the button below. Look forward to virtually seeing you there!

Section Committee Meetings: Friday, February 5, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Executive Council Meeting: Saturday, February 6, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Significant Changes to Mandatory Disclosure
and Other Updates You Must Know
Thursday, Feb. 11, 12:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Attorneys Michelle Klinger Smith, Esq., Catherine Rodriguez, Esq., and Marck K. Joseph, Esq. will discuss the recent updates and changes to the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure which include numerous changes the Mandatory Disclosure that every family law attorney needs to know. The event will be moderated by Trisha Armstrong, Esq.

1.5 CLE

12:00 PM – 12:05 PM
Opening Remarks and Introductions

12:05 PM – 1:10 PM
Analysis of Recent Changes to Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure

1:10 PM – 1:25 PM
Discussion and Questions and Answers

1:25 PM – 1:30 PM
Closing Remarks
The Family Law Section is truly grateful to all of those Members who serve in volunteer roles on our various operational, substantive and ad hoc committees, as well as those who serve, and have served, on our Executive Council. We have made enormous progress over the years in support of our mission to serve Florida families through professional legal advocacy, much of which is due to the dedication of each one of our valued committee members.

If you are currently serving, we thank you for offering your time and expertise, and hope you will join us again for the 2021-2022 Bar cycle; and if you have not yet served, we strongly encourage you to consider doing so!

Above you'll find the link to download these forms:

  • Committee Preference Form
  • Legislation Committee Application
  • Executive Council Application
  • Secretary Application

We can personally attest that active participation in the Section will greatly benefit you personally and professionally. We look forward to working with you during this upcoming year! Please make sure you submit your preference form and applications by the March 15 deadline!

By General Magistrate K. Beth Luna and Amy Hamlin, Esq.
Congratulations to Sarah Sullivan for receiving the 2021 Family Law Section Chair’s Visionary Award! She is extremely deserving of this high honor.
For those of you who were not able to attend the Marital & Family Law Review Course on January 28 and 29, the Chair of the Section, Douglas Greenbaum, presented the award to Sarah on Friday via a recorded presentation. Due to time constraints, he was not able to share much about why Sarah is a Visionary, so this spotlight will pick up where Doug left off, highlighting Sarah’s numerous activities and extensive involvements outside the Family Law Section.
Sarah was a Staff Attorney with Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Inc. from 1997-2001. In 2001, she and her family left Florida, moving to Charleston, South Carolina. While there, she represented the South Carolina Department of Social Services in abuse and neglect cases before the Charleston County Family Court. She collaborated with the judiciary, pro bono lawyers, and social service agencies to create South Carolina’s first family recovery court for drug-dependent parents and their children. The program provided a meaningful chance for recovery to participants while teaching the necessary tools for a drug-free, functional lifestyle so parents could maximize the best interests of their children. Sarah practiced family law with the Clekis Law Firm, Inc. and general civil practice in her own firm, Sarah Sullivan Law, LLC prior to relocating back to her hometown of Jacksonville in 2005.
Back in Florida, Sarah returned to Jacksonville Area Legal Aid as a Senior Staff Attorney from 2005-2009. She created a regional legal services project serving individuals with developmental disabilities. The project defends disabled individuals against denials, terminations, or reductions of their essential services. Sarah was a true innovator because, at that time, this program was the only one of its kind in Florida.
For most of us, that would be quite the fulfilling career. But not for Sarah.
She started Jericho Road, a faith-based non-profit that provides free legal advice, often coordinated through local churches. Sarah taught at Florida Coastal School of Law and led the Disability and Public Benefits Clinic which assisted law students in representing pro bono clients. Sarah also directed the Veteran’s Legal Collaborative. For a number of years, she served on the Outreach Committee for Inns of Court helping to organize clinics for self-represented individuals through the Inn and other outreach projects which have included setting up clinics at the local domestic violence shelter.
Sarah has been a long-time member of the Executive Council of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar, is a Past Chair of the Florida Bar Public Interest Section, currently serves on the Special Committee to Approve Delivery of Legal Services for the Florida Bar, and is the current Co-Vice Chair of the Jacksonville Bar Association Pro Bono Committee.

Currently, Sarah is the Pro Bono Director for Three Rivers Legal Services. She has worked tirelessly to increase Three Rivers’ visibility within the community. One example of her vision is to promote online services during the COVID 19 pandemic. In addition, she is working with Jacksonville Area Legal Aid to establish an ambitious project for pro bono attorneys to represent tenants in eviction cases. Sarah recognizes that due to the pandemic, there is an overwhelming need to assist tenants in negotiating with their landlords to avoid having an eviction on their record. Like so many, Sarah has adapted to COVID limitations. She has organized virtual clinics to provide free legal advice to domestic violence victims, veterans, and local homeless shelters.
Anyone who knows Sarah, knows that she truly enjoys mentoring and will help any attorney. With every job she has had, Sarah has gone out of her way to mentor and teach attorneys as well as students. There are many of us in the Family Law Section who have benefitted (and continue to benefit) from her insight and knowledge.
Those of us fortunate to know Sarah have plenty of stories about her generosity, good humor, thoughtfulness, and deep commitment to helping all people in and out of the legal system. For example, Sarah recently paid for an elderly woman to Uber to her COVID vaccine appointment. This act of kindness may seem like a small gesture but had a huge impact on this woman’s life.
Sarah Sullivan is absolutely a Visionary because her acts, small and large, have a ripple effect to help people throughout the State.
Sarah was not able to attend the Review Course. General Magistrate Luna, however, could not let Sarah miss hearing the announcement of her name as the recipient of this prestigious award. She cleverly convinced Sarah to Facetime her just before the award presentation and recorded Sarah’s reaction.
Congratulations, Sarah!

Sarah Sullivan learning she is the recipient of the 2021 Visionary Award, announced at the Marital & Family Law Review Course
on January 29.
By Philip J. Schipani, Esq., B.C.S.
Costa Crus De Carvalho v. De Carvalho Pereira, 45 Fla. L. Weekly D2556a (Fla. 1st DCA 2020). The Mother appeals the trial court’s order granting the Father’s petition for return of their two minor children to Brazil under the Hague Convention due to their wrongful retention in the United States by the Mother and rejecting her affirmative defense that the petition was filed more than a year after the wrongful retention and the children were “now settled”.

There are several issues which are noteworthy. First, the Court did not find clear error in determining Brazil was the children’s habitual residence, and ordering their return, when the younger of the two children was born in the United States and had never been to Brazil. Second, the trial court did not err in returning the minor children even though there was more than a year between the filing of the petition and the purported wrongful retention.

To establish a case for wrongful retention under the Hague Convention in this case, the Father was required to prove by a preponderance of evidence that: 1) the children were habitual residents of Brazil at the time they were retained by the Mother in the United States; 2) the retention of the children by the Mother was in violation of the Father’s custody rights under Brazilian law; and 3) the Father had been exercising those custody rights at the time of the retention. The parties stipulated that the Father had custody rights under Brazilian Law and that he was exercising those rights. Therefore, the only issues for the trial court to decide were whether Brazil was the habitual residence of the children, whether the Mother retained them in the United States “in breach” of the Father’s custody rights under Brazilian Law, and whether the proceedings were commenced after more than one year and the children were now settled in their new environment. 

The parties with the older child and the Mother pregnant with the second child traveled to the United States for two agreed upon purposes (1) For their second child to be born in America and therefore have American Citizenship and (2) For the Father to advance his career in cardiology with a fellowship. The second child was born in America as planned; however, the Father’s fellowship fell through and he returned to Brazil to resume residence with the family. The Mother refused to return. The Father sought return of the child with assistance from Brazilian authorities in June, 2016, but failed due to improper forum because the children were in the United States. The Wife filed for a divorce in a Brazilian Court through a power of attorney in July 2016. The Father filed his petition seeking return of the children under the Hague Convention on November 4, 2019.  

The standard of review of the determination of habitual residence is “clear error” which is deferential to the fact finding court. The Court affirmed the finding regarding habitual residence stating: “The trial court described the “substantial” evidence the Father submitted to prove that until April 2016 both parents had intended the trip to the U.S. to be temporary and that the family would return to Brazil to resume their permanent residence, the Father's career, and the education of the children. While another court might have weighed the evidence and determined the credibility of the witnesses differently, the trial court's evaluation of the facts determining these children's habitual residence as of April 2016 did not constitute clear error. In cases involving infants born in a country during a temporary visit by the parents, the Supreme Court has noted that an “infant's ‘mere physical presence,' is not a dispositive indicator of an infant's habitual residence.

The Mother also sought to overturn the trial court’s rejection of her affirmative defense, that the petition was filed more than a year after the wrongful retention and that the children were now settled. A child is settled “within the meaning of the Convention when a preponderance of the evidence shows that the child has significant connections to their new home that indicate that the child has developed a stable, permanent, and non-transitory life in their new country to such a degree that return would be to the child's detriment.” Fernandez v. Bailey, 909 F.3d 353, 361 (11th Cir. 2018). Temporary disruption of the child's life is not a sufficient detriment in this context, and “the ‘settled' inquiry requires courts to carefully consider the totality of the circumstances.” Id. The trial court discussed the evidence about the children's lives in the United States, their relatives, and the lack of ties to the community due to their young ages. The Court found that the possibility that it could have gone the other way does not constitute clear error.
By Veronica R. Jackson, Magnolia Mediations, LLC
Being a valued part of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar ("Section") is a tremendous honor and a privilege. Allow me to tell you why. As a non-attorney member, known as an "affiliate member," and Supreme Court of Florida Certified Family Law Mediator, I have a unique opportunity to grow and expand my experience and development partnerships. 

Some benefits are tangible while others are immeasurable. I find the Section's website to be a great resource for information. The membership application is simple, and the approval process is expeditious. Upon joining the Section, I received a warm greeting from some of the section members. Some of the advantages of being an affiliate member include:

Inexpensive Membership. The cost to join the Section was within my budget. Only $65/year for affiliate members and to top it off, within a week of joining, I was surprised to find that I had already been placed on the mailing list.

Networking opportunities with members who have a high standard for professionalism. I have not only had the opportunity to meet respected family law attorneys around the state but have meaningful interaction with them and other affiliate members of the legal profession. 

Opportunities to foster enduring relationships, professionally and socially, by being active during meetings and relied upon by other members. This has had a positive impact on the growth of my company and my career as a family law mediator. After all, it has been said that people like to do business with people that they know, like, and trust.

Education enhancements. Offered at a discount to members, continuing education (CE) courses are frequently offered on an array of family law subjects by knowledgeable and experienced industry leaders. This has helped me remain abreast of the new laws passed and technologies developed related to field of family law. Opportunities to teach CE courses are also available. Volunteering to author articles for submission into publications has been another way I have obtained exposure and advanced my knowledge.

Admit it, we do not know everything. I have found that being a member of the Section has provided me the opportunity to obtain immediate Support and Feedback from industry experts when I have needed it the most. This has particularly helped me gain additional knowledge and become even better in my field.

Sponsorship Opportunities. I found this to be a fantastic avenue to spotlight my business and boost my business’ reputation statewide. This is done with having exposure to nearly 4,000 professionals including family law mediators, accountants, financial planners, mental health professionals, paralegals, parenting coordinators, arbitrators, and of course family law attorneys. Increased visibility has been a great way to build brand awareness.

The advantages highlight why I think acquiring a membership within this organization is a career development strategy and an opportunity to advance professionally. I hope to see and hear from those of you looking to join the program, you will not regret it.

By Amber Kornreich, Esq.
Should all your passwords be forgotten, and never come to mind?

The beginning of a new year is an excellent time for family lawyers to re-assess their cybersecurity and ensure their firm and clients’ data is protected. Keeping data secure is not only a good practice, it is integral to a lawyer’s duty to protect confidential client documents and information. See generally Florida Bar Ethics Opinion 10-3.

Here are a few steps you can take right away to refresh your cybersecurity habits for the new year:

Update Your Passwords. Avoid using the same passwords for multiple accounts. Never use your own name, the word “password”, 123456, telephone numbers, addresses, dates of birth, or the names of your family members or pets, which may be easily discoverable on social media or elsewhere online. One of the largest recent password studies of over one billion passwords revealed 42% of passwords were vulnerable to attack “without any effort or technical difficulty.” Longer and more complex passwords are crucial to cybersecurity and more difficult for hackers to crack. Change your passwords regularly. Enable Two-Factor Authentication whenever possible.

Use a Password Manager. Consider using a password manager like LastPass, 1Password, or NordPass, to keep track of your passwords. Password managers store all of your passwords and only require you to remember one Master Password. Password Managers also randomly generate long passwords and add convenience by automatically populating the passwords when prompted. Using a password manager saves time by avoiding lengthy password-reset processes and saves the headache of trying to memorize all of your online passwords. Whenever possible, avoid saving your passwords in a document on your computer called “passwords” or writing them by hand and storing them in a drawer where they may be discovered accidentally.

Consider a Hardware Security Key. When storing your client’s files, you can never take too much precaution. Some lawyers may opt for a physical hardware “security key” which offers an additional level of security. A security key works similarly to a car key – your computer will only unlock its information when the security key is inserted and the password is typed in. Some keys offer military and government level security, and the benefit of using a piece of hardware is that only you will be able to access your information-- just be sure not to misplace it. Learn more about the best security key options for your needs here.

Set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on Your Mobile Devices. Your data is most vulnerable when you access the internet in public places or on shared WiFi connections. Everything from your mobile banking, to client e-mails, private filings, photos, and other data can be easily intercepted if your mobile device is not browsing privately. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) allows a user to use a secure and private connection while using their devices in a public space. Any lawyer who is working remotely outside of their home or secure office should consider setting up a VPN for added privacy, security, and confidence.

Back-Up & Update. Always update your devices, anti-virus software, and applications when prompted. Often updates are specifically designed to address new security threats. Keeping your device updated will make it more difficult for hackers to get your information. However, while you should always update your devices, think twice about constantly updating your social media accounts. Be cautious with sharing personal details about your family, daily routine, or travel on social media. Not only can this information help hackers unlock your passwords but it can also create other physical safety threats. Assume everyone can see what you post, and don’t share personal information you would not want accessed by strangers.

Stay Vigilant. Many cyber attackers will use urgent requests to get victims to act. A cybercriminal may make up a story about why funds must be sent right away or a closing statement must be downloaded immediately. Hackers often impersonate contacts from your address book to obtain personal information or build rapport. Verify the sender’s correct e-mail address whenever in doubt. Delete any suspicious e-mails and do not open attachments from unknown addresses.

Auld Lang Syne.

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. 
In this month's "Faces of Family Law," we introduce you to Executive Council member Belinda Lazzara, Board-Certified family lawyer with Meros, Smith, Lazzara, Brennan & Brennan in St. Petersburg.

Click the video to learn more about Belinda and some of the benefits she's enjoyed by being involved with the Section. (Plus, bonus footage of Belinda doing her favorite thing!)
Name and Gender Marker Change Ad Hoc
Kimberly Rommel-Enright, Esq., Supervising Attorney, Pro Bono Project,
Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, Inc.
Mission of the Committee:  The mission of the Name and Gender Marker Change Sub Committee is to revise the name change statute to address situations in which a minor can petition for a name change without parental consent, create a presumption that the name change is in the best interest of the child in situations where parents agree to the name change, and create a mechanism to seal the court record. The committee is also reviewing the name change statute for any additional necessary revisions. The committee is also writing a statute that would create a mechanism for individuals to change their gender marker.

What the Committee does: The Committee has worked very hard to revise and draft name change and gender marker change legislation that is fair and inclusive and is not overly cumbersome for the individual seeking the name or gender marker change.

Goals of the Committee this bar cycle: The goal of the Committee this bar cycle is to present proposed legislation to the Legislation Committee of the Florida Bar’s Family Law Section.

How the Committee’s work supports its members, the Section and/or Florida’s Families: The Committee’s work supports Florida’s Families by creating a more inclusive way for individuals to achieve a name and/or gender marker change.

One thing you did not know about the Committee until you joined: This is a brand new committee that was created at my request. 
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!
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