MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIR
The Family Law Section has been very active in 2021 between our successful Certification Review seminar to our Winter meetings, both held virtually. We are also honored to have donated $75,000 to the Florida Bar Foundation, bringing the Section’s total contributions to $500,000 since 2012! The donation to the Florida Bar Foundation aligns with our Section’s goals to support legal services for Florida’s children. Read the Florida Bar News article about it HERE.

In February, the Section held a CLE on the changes to the Family Law Rules of Procedure, and we offered Facebook Live events on collaborative law and proper impeachment methods.  

Now is the time to get involved with the Family Law Section. All you need to do is complete your Committee preference forms to take advantage of the many opportunities to become more active within the Section. Your professional life can be enhanced by committee work, and it gives you the opportunity to meet other attorneys from all over the State of Florida. Please complete and submit your committee preference forms by March 15, 2021. You can download them HERE.

In keeping with my theme of integrity, I leave you with this - Always remember that you are what you do, not what you say you will do.

Douglas A. Greenbaum, Chair
CLE: TOP 10 ETHICAL DO'S & DONT'S IN FAMILY LAW
Thursday, March 25, 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.
DESCRIPTION
At the conclusion of this course, participants will be able to (1) identify potential ethical pitfalls when dealing with clients or the courts; (2) access resources designed to guide practitioners through ethical dilemmas specific to the practice of family law; and (3) learn to deal with ethical situations that may arise in the context of advice or litigation in a professional, transparent fashion. Presenters are Magistrate Barbara Goiran, Sixth Judicial Circuit, Dade City and Felicia Williams, Esq., Father's Rights Law, P.A., Tampa. The CLE will be moderated by Chelsea Miller, Esq., Rossway Swan, Vero Beach.

CREDITS
1 CLE, may be applied toward Ethics

COURSE
#4503

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

12:05 PM – 12:55 PM
  • Discussions of Rules Regulating the Florida Bar-Chapter 3 & 4
  • Discussion of Professionalism resources, including Florida Bar Professionalism Handbook and Family Law Bounds of Advocacy
  • Discussion of local professionalism panels and other available resources
  • Ethical scenarios for participatory learning with polls, whiteboard and/or breakout group discussions
  • Review of relevant recent case law; Attorney/Client Ethical Issues- Communicating with opposing counsel and self-represented litigants
  • Do’s and Don’ts from a trier of fact perspectives
  • Discussion of a handout on accessing ethics and professionalism resources

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

12:55 PM – 1:00 PM
Q&A and Closing Remarks
SECTION COMMITTEE AND EXECUTIVE FORMS
AND APPLICATIONS DUE MARCH 15 AT 5:00 PM
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!

NOMINATIONS NOW OPEN FOR
2021 ALBERTO ROMERO MAKING A DIFFERENCE AWARD
Over the past year, all of us have adapted our way of practice, have innovated how we live and communicate, and have provided helping hands to neighbors. However, there are some that have gone above and beyond the recommended pro bono case or occasional community involvement in a truly exceptional way, making the lives of others better. 

We are currently accepting nominations for the Family Law Section of The Florida Bar's 2021 Alberto Romero Making a Difference Award and will do so through April 30, 2021.

The Award recognizes the work of Section members and affiliates who provide outstanding pro bono services, engage in significant volunteer community activities that improve the lives of Florida's children and families, and encourage other Section members to volunteer. Recent recipients of this distinguished award are Eddie Stephens of West Palm Beach (2017), Sarah Sullivan of Jacksonville (2018) and Harriet Williams of Tallahassee (2019), and Kimberly Rommel-Enright of West Palm Beach (2020).

The Chair, on behalf of the Family Law Section of The Florida Bar, presents the Alberto Romero Making a Difference Award at the annual awards and installation luncheon at The Florida Bar Annual Convention in June.

To submit a nomination, you may download the form HERE. For any additional information, please contact Robin Scher at rjs@flafamilylawfirm.com or call (561) 626-5640.  

SAVE THE DATE FOR OUR
IN-STATE RETREAT, MAY 13-16
We're currently in the planning stages for the Family Law Section's annual In-State Retreat, taking place - in person! - Thursday, May 13 - Sunday, May 16 at the Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa in Jensen Beach. More info to come so stay tuned! For a sneak peek of the property, click HERE.
CASE LAW UPDATE
By Philip J. Schipani, Esq., B.C.S.
Bates v. Bates, 46 Fla. L. Weekly D287c (Fla 3rd DCA February 3, 2021)

The Husband in this case appealed a non-final order finding the parties’ prenuptial agreement invalid because it was the product of duress and coercion. The Court reversed as to duress and affirmed as to coercion. The opinion contains a concise discussion on the difference between duress and coercion.

The parties met through a matchmaking website. At that time, the Husband was a divorced 41-year-old airline pilot worth 4 million dollars looking for a “Christian based woman of child-bearing age” to marry and bring to Florida to start a family. The Wife, a Columbian native, was a virgin and turned 18 three days prior to meeting the Husband. The Wife had a high school education and was in her second year of medical school and spoke little English. The month after their first meeting the parties had sex and became engaged the next day. The Wife learned she was pregnant, and the Husband paid for the Wife to have an abortion shortly after their marriage, approximately three months after their first meeting.

The Wife’s family was unaware of her premarital sex, pregnancy, and abortion. During the brief courtship, the Husband told the Wife that he wanted her to sign a prenuptial agreement. The Husband obtained a form prenuptial agreement from a co-pilot acquaintance and modified it to his satisfaction. The parties never discussed or negotiated the terms of the agreement. Shortly before the marriage, the Wife took the agreement to a Colombian attorney to have it translated from English into Spanish. Despite the attorney signing a certification in the agreement attesting that she was knowledgeable in Florida law and had advised the Wife about her rights under the agreement, the Attorney now admits that she does not know Florida law and she did nothing more than have the agreement translated into Spanish by a third party. The next day the parties executed the agreement before a notary; the Wife had not read the agreement. After which time the Wife moved to Florida to live with the Husband.

In May 2017, the Wife filed for dissolution of marriage. Therein, the Wife sought to set aside the prenuptial agreement “on the grounds that it was reached under fraud, deceit, duress, coercion, misrepresentation or overreaching” and alleged that the prenuptial agreement had been “executed involuntarily as a result of the timing of the Agreement.”

During the trial on the validity of the prenuptial agreement, it was disclosed the Husband repeatedly told the Wife that signing the agreement was “a requirement” for the Wife to immigrate to the United States. Yet the Wife also testified that she would have signed anything because she wanted to marry the Husband and immigrate to the United States. The lower court entered a non-final order invalidating the agreement because it was the product of duress and coercion. 
          
The lower court was reversed as to duress. Duress can occur where the defending spouse threatens an action—even an action that the defending spouse has a right to take—for the defending spouse’s own pecuniary advantage. See Berger v. Berger, 466 So.2d 1151 (Fla. 4th DCA 1985) The trial court concluded that the Wife’s premarital sex with Husband, her pregnancy, and subsequent abortion, coupled with the Wife coming from a strict Catholic family who may exact some form of reprisal upon learning of the abortion, constituted duress. The trial court was reversed because there was no evidence from which it could be inferred that Husband had threatened to tell Wife’s family about these circumstances if Wife did not execute the agreement. There being no evidence that Husband threatened to besmirch Wife's reputation for his own pecuniary gain, we conclude that there was not competent, substantial evidence to support the trial court's finding of duress.   

The Court affirmed the invalidation of the agreement due to coercion finding that there were “sufficient coercive circumstances” surrounding the execution of the prenuptial agreement to give rise to a presumption that the Wife did not execute the agreement of her own free will. Lutgert v. Lutgert, 338 So.2d 1111, 1115-16 (Fla. 2nd DCA 1976); Flaherty v. Flaherty, 128 So.3d 920, 923 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2013). On this record, we do not disturb this finding. Husband's ultimatum, by itself, did not constitute the level of compulsion necessary for coercion. See Doig v. Doig, 787 So.2d 100, 103 (Fla. 2d DCA 2001) (concluding that an ultimatum that there would be no wedding without a prenuptial agreement “does not, in itself, constitute duress”). Additional acts by Husband, however, raised the level of compulsion to constitute coercion. The Husband repeatedly told the Wife that it was a requirement for the agreement to be signed before their appointment with the Colombian embassy, falsely making it seem as though it is a requirement for immigration to the United States. These acts, combined with the time pressure aspects of the parties' courtship and the Wife's vulnerable physical and emotional condition following the abortion, constitute competent, substantial evidence to support the trial court's finding of coercion.

TECH TIPS
Virtual Currency, a/k/a/ Cryptocurrency,
a/k/a Bitcoins and Altcoins
By Jack Moring, Esq., B.C.S.
The Florida Supreme Court, on November 12, 2020, issued its opinion, “In Re: Amendments to the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure – 2020 Regular-Cycle Report.” Among the changes made to the Family Law Rules of Procedure (which took effect on January 1, 2021 at 12:01 a.m.) were significant changes to Rule 12.285 (Mandatory Disclosure). One of those changes deals with “virtual currency.” Subdivision (e)(11) now requires a party to produce
[t]he most recent statement and statements for the past 12 months for any virtual currency transactions in which either party to this action participated within the last 12 months or holds an interest . . .. Virtual currency is a digital representation of value that functions as a medium of exchange, a unit or account, and/or a store of value. A listing of all current holdings of virtual currency shall also be disclosed.

Virtual currency is defined as “an electronic representation of monetary value that may be issued, managed, and controlled by private issuers, developers, or the founding organization. Such virtual currencies are often represented in terms of tokens and may remain unregulated without a legal tender.” Virtual currency is also referred to as digital currency and cryptocurrency.

The most popular virtual currency is Bitcoin, which was created in 2009. “[T]here are more than 4,000 cryptocurrencies in existence as of January 2021.” These other types are often called altcoins.

The essence of cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin is the “blockchain,” which is a specific type of database serving as a “ledger” of all cryptocurrency transactions and which is stored on numerous computers. Most cryptocurrencies are not tied to any nation’s government-issued currency. The decentralized and extra-governmental nature of cryptocurrencies is a large part of their allure. The wildly fluctuating value is another. As of January 28, 2021, one Bitcoin was valued at $34,236.80, up 2.37% from the day before and up 260.3% from one year ago. Members of the subreddit “r/CryptoCurrency” and “r/SatoshiStreetBets ” have recently launched an effort to push the value of one cryptocurrency, Dogecoin, “to the moon.”

Cryptocurrencies have also become a method for the less than scrupulous spouse to seek to hide assets. That unscrupulous spouse would likely not voluntarily disclose any cryptocurrency holdings in compliance with new Rule 12.281(e)(11). If a client has any inkling that his/her spouse has been acquiring and/or trading in any type of digital currencies, one should consider employing the services of a financial professional and/or forensic computer technician with expertise in digital currencies in an attempt to identify, trace and value such assets.

If you would like to know more about this fascinating (and, frankly, frightening) new facet to family law practice, former Section Chair and Orlando attorney, Richard West, co-authored, along with Massachusetts attorney Jonathan Fields, “A Divorce Practitioner’s Bitcoin Primer,” in 33 Journal of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Number 1 (Pages 177 – 196), 2020. The article addresses such topics as “valuation, dissipation, distribution and taxation of Bitcoin assets.” The Section thanks Mr. West, Mr. Fields and the AAML for allowing us to link to the article.

A DATA-DRIVEN NEW WORLD
The Need for Data in Understanding the Impact
of the Family Law System on Children
By Matthew L. Lundy, Esq.
In Dr. Judith Wallerstein’s, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, [1] Dr. Wallerstein conducted a 25-year study that looked at the long-term impact of divorce on children. She was not just concerned about what happened to children up until age 18. Rather, her study kept up with the subjects well into their 40s. Amongst other things, she found that the children of divorce are more prone to substance abuse both at an early age and in adulthood, problems in school, the lack of stability in their own relationships, and the inability to form lasting relationships. Dr. Wallerstein’s research is in many ways one-of-a-kind. We do not have a lot of good, long-term research on how divorce impacts children. In fact, much of what we as a society know about the long-term effects of divorce on children is anecdotal, and not data-driven. The lack of data is becoming more pronounced in an increasingly data-driven world. And, in a world where software companies and non-lawyer form businesses increasingly become major competitors of lawyers, it is worth considering the results of our system. 
           
What about the psychological impact on a divorcing parent: do you feel like you know a lot about that? You might be well-served to have some numbers on hand. After a divorce, 1/3 of men, and ½ of women, remain angry about their divorce (forever).[2] So even though things are about to end physically, they may actually be permanently entering a phase of anger. In only 10% of divorces do both parties feel that they have achieved a happier life.[3] And, of course, 100% of the children of divorce spend less time with at least one parent.
In a modern world replete with data, the practice of family law still operates largely data free. So, for example, do we really know with any certainty how one parenting plan affects a certain type of child versus another? Are we making any efforts to sub-categorize cases and adjust our own rules to deal with the nuances of the people and personalities in the cases? Do we know if the collaborative style of divorce, or mediation, or traditional litigation works best for children?
Without such information, there is no way of gauging the performance of our system, nor the performance of the participants in this system.
 
[1] Hyperion, 2000.
[2] Keyes C.L.M.2002. Social civility in the United States. Sociological Inquiry 72: 393–408 As cited in The Family in America New Research, November 2002.
[3] Wallerstein J.S., and Blakeslee S.. 2004. Second chances: Men, women, and children a decade after divorce. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

ATTORNEYS, THE SOUL, ADDICTION, AND HEROES
By Dr. Don Kennedy
I am a doctor. Last month I saw a vacationing young attorney who tripped over her daughter’s baby carriage and broke her right wrist. After we splinted her arm she asked for a written excuse. Odd. Why? She explained she needed the wording to be explicit: Please excuse [name] as she will have decreased productivity for the next four weeks.

Whether you’re a doctor like me, a law student, a practicing attorney, or a driver of the culture in which you work, this article is about and for you. It presents burnout in a different context, an important twist from the noisy jargon that flits and threads through every high-pressure professional practice.

This is about your soul, that part of you that never dies and only speaks to you when, as I wrote in The Surfer’s Journey, “You are challenged to choose between good and evil and when your body says quit.”

In 2013 I quit. I walked into the office of my thirty-year family practice, stared at a picture of me sitting on a log next to my surfboard in Costa Rica, and realized I was no longer the fun-loving surfer-doctor I dreamed I would and could be. I was burned out.

Burnout relates to your dreams, yesterday and tomorrow. The goal of this article is to educate and motivate attorneys and other professionals to recognize the cousin of the beast of burnout: Addiction.

How Attorneys Discovered Burnout from Addicts
 
In a free-clinic in Queens, New York in the 1970’s where addicts and the homeless came for mental and legal assistance, a man walked in and slumped in a chair. He hung his head and then looked around at the faces in the crowded waiting room.
"I’m so tired of this,” he said to the man next to him. The man responded, “Me too."
“I’m so burned out,” he said. “Yep. Yep. I know.”

The receptionist heard the conversation and on her way home, she thought that’s me. I can’t do any more than I’m doing. At the staff meeting the next morning she asked if anyone knew what burnout meant. They all shook their heads, and the clinic psychologist wrote the word in his notebook. It was a new term coined for an old and indefinable disease. A real disease.

The Other Cause of Burnout

The cause of burnout is described as a mismatch in the work environment. The literature reassures those who are frying that it is not their fault. The cause, they say, is multifactorial and difficult to grasp. But cause and effect lie deeper than brick and mortar.
 
Burnout is the end result of a journey from dreams to disillusionment. It’s only discovered, or better yet, brought to corporate cognizance, when other’s expectations of that attorney’s performance on the production line become variable
and trending down.
 
Too late. Burnout cannot be fixed by those who allow its existence and ignore its human toll. The psychological burn-scar doesn’t heal. Instead, it exists in the subconscious quiet as a growing and too often ignored the voice that says, “I’m so tired of this, there’s got to be more to life.”

The Burnout Ritual
 
Burnout begins with the three-part ritual of law-hood: (1) separation, (2) initiation, and (3) return. The college student leaves what he knows, is initiated in the theoretical law-school curriculum, and returns as the wide-eyed and invincible conqueror.

Then, reality lights the burnout fuse, the soulful superpowers are gradually smothered, and the dreamer turns from Hercules into a survivor dependent on other means of fulfillment. Sound familiar?

Three Steps to Hearing Your Soul
 
I learned and teach that there is no such thing as beating burnout. Burnout is indefinable, personal, invisible, and by the time the fuse turns into a forest fire, choices are reactive and confusing. But know that re-designing a life is never too late.
 
Remember, the mismatched culture and system an attorney enters may not be that attorney’s fault, but the decision to begin a journey of rediscovery, of love, purpose and health is that individual’s responsibility.

The answer is not in one overnight, exhaustive hop of escape into another flame, but rather a daring dive into the childlike imagination that makes all things possible.

Here are the three steps I learned, live, and teach.

1. You must leave what you know – again.
 
You must take an experience-based sabbatical away from the present work and world to re-discover the kid in you.

On the day after I left my family practice, I jumped on a plane to Maui, Hawaii and did what I loved as a kid, surfing. I wandered the beaches and drove the crooked road to Hana and sat next to Charles Lindbergh’s grave on a cliff overlooking the wide Pacific Ocean. I wrote and thought and retraced and reimagined.
 
When I returned, I worked part-time in urgent care, went back to school and earned a Ph.D. in leadership, wrote books, became a teaching professor, and created a surfing-based Motivational Medicine practice to help others get better at being alive.

2. You must forget the reactive plan and discover flow
 
Intention and planning are the antitheses for imagination, creativity, and life-change. Rich epiphanies only occur when you can hear your inner voice again.

I once coached a young attorney named Lisa whom I met on a plane and told me she went to law school to continue the legacy of her parents and grandparents. She was overwhelmed, unhappy, at risk, and planning to move to another law firm in another state. Her passion was running.
 
After coaching and reflection, she decided to forgo the rebound plan and develop an exclusive and colorful women’s running shoe company with a portion of the profit going for running shoes for young girls in need. Happy, autonomous, and driven.

3. You must actively seek new experience
 
Whether it’s law, medicine, accounting, or architecture, the story is the same, we are inculcated into a life and belief directing tribal culture. Mismatched attorneys spend their days and nights on what I call the beach of same never daring to swim to see what life is like on another island.
 
Pam is a gifted international attorney and professor with thirty years of practice. She has two issues: She has been burned out for years and has a fear of swimming. When she attended our Costa Rica Immersion event, she waded into the ocean and surfed. Her mind-set clicked.

During her immersion time, she settled into a chair under the palms and pulled out the blank art book she had stuffed into her suitcase. She began. Today she is developing two personal art studios and her curriculum vitae lists her as an artist, then an attorney.
The transformational hero and leader
 
It is reported that greater than 30 percent of all practicing attorneys are suffering from burnout, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse, and I believe that actual number is larger. That doesn’t have to be you or someone you know and love.

In The Surfer’s Journey, I created and defined a transformational hero as a purpose-driven leader who is willing to give all they have for a cause greater than themselves. They are not burned out, but rather wake each day guided by a fiery clear, soulful, subconscious voice.

Can you hear it? It’s time. You’re being called.

You can join Dr. Don Kennedy for CLE on his next Surfer’s Journey retreat to Costa Rica beginning April 17, 2021. For information on coaching and other programs please visit his website at drdonkennedy.com.
FACES OF FAMILY LAW
In this month's "Faces of Family Law," we introduce you to Executive Council member Michelle Klinger Smith, Board-Certified family lawyer with The Manz Law Firm in Marathon, Florida Keys.

Click the video to learn more about Michelle and some of the benefits she's enjoyed by being involved with the Section (and what she does on the weekends!)
COMMITTEE SPOTLIGHT
Publications
COMMITTEE CO-CHAIRS
Anya Cintron Stern, Esq., Law Firm of Anya Cintron Stern, Coral Gables
Sarah Sullivan, Esq., Three Rivers Legal Services, Jacksonville
Mission of the Committee: To develop and produce high-quality digital and print publications that serve members of the Family Law Section and the Florida Bar, at large.  
 
What the Committee does: Procures, edits and publishes information valuable to family law practitioners in a variety of lengths, mediums, and subject matters.  
 
Goals of the Committee this bar cycle: Produce at least 4 high-quality Family Law Commentator issues, 12 FamSeg digital editions, and multiple submissions to the six Florida Bar Journals published by the Florida Bar. Additionally, Anya Cintron Stern and Robin Scher have taken on an indexing project that identifies key search terms for attorneys and lay people so that they can search our online database of past Commentators.  
 
How the Committee’s work supports its members, the Section and/or Florida’s Families: Our section is one of the most supportive in that we identify, develop and publish material relevant to the practice of family law in Florida--which includes small snippets and hot topics, articles from non-attorney professionals in the family law courts, ethical and professional best practices and more academic research-based articles. We have something for everyone, with the goal that whatever offering you choose, that publication will positively impact your practice.  
 
One thing you did not know about the Committee until you joined: How much work we do. . .our committee is the "strong silent type" that hunkers down and gets it done! Not a ton of "flash" but we accomplish a LOT! And, we work as a team, or else we wouldn't be as successful in fulfilling our mission.
THANK YOU SPONSORS!   
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@familylawfla.org), 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!
Platinum Level 
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