As we enter into our Florida Spring, the Section has been busy fighting for Florida’s families this legislative session. The Family Law Section is strongly opposed to SB 1796—this proposed legislation dramatically alters alimony awards and include an automatic presumption in favor of 50/50 timesharing. As I have repeatedly stated, the proposed changes to Chapter 61, specifically pertaining to alimony are retroactive and will affect existing and pending awards of alimony, impacting countless marital settlement agreements and final judgments. This sets a dangerous precedent for contractual agreements in Florida. Moreover, this Section is deeply concerned that this public policy and sets up a system that heavily favors one party, while damaging the other unnecessarily. The Section strongly encourages each of you to reach out to the Governor and voice your concerns with the presumption in favor of 50/50 timesharing and altering alimony awards.
Please also join the Section at the CLE: Evidence: Learn It, Know it, Admit It or Keep It Out presented by Judge Laura Laurie and Meghan Clary, BCS, and providing the perspective of evidence in family law cases from both the bench and the bar.  Thank you to our esteemed presenters as well as Jaime Epstein, Esq. who will be hosting this CLE. This virtual CLE will take place on April 14, 2022 from 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM. Other excellent CLEs put on by the Section can be accessed at the Section’s website.
As this Bar Year soon comes to a close, I continue to be inspired by the hard work and dedication of our Section members, especially in this tough legislative session, and I hope that you are also inspired to become engaged in the Section’s efforts to protect Florida’s families.
I will leave you with the amazing words of Audrey Hepburn, which certainly rings true about each and every one of you: "Nothing is impossible. The word itself says I'm Possible!"  

Heather L. Apicella
Chair, 2021-2022
Judge Laura Laurie and board certified family law attorney, Meghan Clary will speak on evidentiary issues in family law cases from two perspectives (the bench and the bar). 1.5 CLE Credits. Register HERE.

12:00 PM – 12:05 PM
Opening Remarks & Introductions
Jamie Epstein, Fort Lauderdale

12:05 PM – 1:05 PM
Presentation: Evidence: Learn it, know it, admit it or keep it out.
Judge Laurie and Ms. Clary will present on common pitfalls when presenting evidence during a family law trial. Topics include, judicial notice, child hearsay, admissions by party opponent, impeachment and refreshing recollection.
Judge Laura Laurie, Delray Beach
Meghan Clary, B.C.S., Fort Lauderdale

1:05 PM – 1:25 PM
Questions and Answers
Jamie Epstein
Judge Laura Laurie
Meghan Clary

1:25 PM – 1:30 PM
Closing Remarks
Jamie Epstein
On March 24, 2022, the Supreme Court of Florida ordered amendments to Florida Rules which became effective on April 1, 2022.  

The amendments reflect an effort to align the process for hearings in front of general magistrates under rule 12.490 with the process for hearings in front of child support hearing officers under rule 12.491. 

Prior to the amendment, parties could seek a review of the General Magistrate’s report and recommendations by the filing of exceptions. However, under the prior rule 12.491, the parties could only seek a review of the Hearing Officers rulings by the filing of a motion to vacate. With the amendment approved by the Florida Supreme Court, cases are expected to proceed more efficiently, ease the workload of the Court and eliminate confusion among practitioners and litigants. 

The corresponding family law form was additionally amended. The Section thanks Kristin Kirkner and Jack Moring, Co-Chairs of the Sections Rules and Forms Committee, for their work
By: Sarah R. Sullivan, Esq.

K.D. v In Re: P.P., No. 3D21-2420 (Fla 3d DCA March 23, 2022).

Three children, living with their mother in Ohio, came to visit their aunt in Florida. Upon arrival, the aunt discovers that the children have been abused by mother and files a Chapter 751 Petition for Temporary Custody by an Extended Family Member. The petition is granted. After six months of the children living with the aunt under the family court extended family member order, the aunt then files a dependency and shelter petition. 

Soon after, the family court dismissed the aunt’s extended family member custody order for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the children were visiting and not residing with the aunt at the time the petition was filed. The dependency court then proceeded with the shelter petition. At the same time, the mother filed a motion to dismiss based on lack of jurisdiction and the appeal to the district court ensued. The issue was whether the UCCJEA barred Florida from taking jurisdiction over the children for purposes of determining legal and physical custody. Both Florida and Ohio have adopted the UCCJEA. The appellate court noted that the aunt’s case fit within two exceptions to general jurisdictional provisions of the UCCJEA. 

Firstly, where there is no “home state” and at least the child and one contestant have significant connections to Florida, Florida may take jurisdiction under the UCCJEA. Secondly, all courts are empowered to exercise temporary emergency jurisdiction to protect a child subjected to abuse. The Third District Court of Appeal determined the predicates for emergency jurisdiction in Florida were met. The mother never filed an action in Ohio so there was no competing state order. The Third further clarified that although the aunt did not have “home state” jurisdiction at the time that she filed the petition for temporary custody by extended family member, Florida “ripened” into the home state of the children after residing in Florida after six months when the dependency petition was initiated. 

The dependency court possessed jurisdiction to adjudicate the dependency dispute both with home state jurisdiction as well as temporary emergency jurisdiction provisions of the UCCJEA. The case was reversed and remanded back to the trial court for further proceedings.   
It's that time of the year! We are now accepting nominations for the Family Law Section of The Florida Bar's 2022 Alberto Romero Making a Difference Award and will do so through April 28, 2022. 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 Harriet Williams of Tallahassee (2019), Kim Rommel Enright of West Palm Beach (2020) and co-winners, Sarah Kay and Caryn Stevens (2021.)

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. For more information, please contact Robin Scher at or by calling (561) 626-5640.  You can download the nomination form HERE.
By: Rachel Licona, Esq.

“Disruptive technology” is the business term for an innovation that creates new ways for business, customers, and industries to operate. At times, this disruption is not driven by human aspiration, but by unforeseen forces. We’ve all heard necessity is the mother of invention. In the case of court operations, the COVID pandemic has become our forcible innovator. Even in early days of the shut downs, most legal professionals knew there was no returning to a pre-COVID way of conducting court business.

Video technology, specifically by the most fortunate video conferencing platform, Zoom, has been a disruptive force in our normal legal dealings. As all family court appearances moved to a virtual space, the judiciary, court administration, attorneys, and parties were forced to adapt. Discussions on how, when, and where we will be moving back to the physical courtroom are continuing to circulate. What might emerge from this pandemic is the proliferation and implantation of the “hybrid courtroom” – where participants will connect via video while others will be present in the courtroom. This procedure is not without precedent considering “jail calls” are a normal occurrence for domestic violence and child support proceedings.

Family law strikes an interesting balance in allowing hybrid proceedings. Civil and criminal jury trials present a significant hindrance as attorneys and court administration attempt to navigate this rocky process with practical and due process concerns. Family law also has its concerns.

The Supreme Court COVID-19 Working Group has said promotion of permanent, broader access to remote court proceedings will not jeopardize the rights of rural and low-income Floridians. Legal professionals and the judiciary regularly discuss the pros and cons of implementing permanent remote capabilities. One on hand, hybrid hearings could be more cost effective for family law parties. Litigants can appear for a hearing from their homes or work rather than taking time off to appear in-person, sometimes at a great distance. Additionally, it could save clients from extra attorney fees. On the other, requirements to appear remotely could deny access to those who lack technical expertise or reliable phone and internet access. We are all too familiar with the stalled or lengthy remote hearing prolonged by a technology issue. Who may appear remotely and for what type of proceeding will likely dominate the conversation surrounding hybrid hearings.

Hybrid hearing capability is not going to occur tomorrow. The move to Zoom was done hastily, but effectively, due to the need to cut down on in-person interaction. Now, in the wake of re-building the courtroom, the move to hybrid hearings should take forethought and organization.

Consider these six practice tips in setting up a hybrid courtroom:

1.    Be prepared to require in-person if needed. Learn when it is appropriate to require in-person hearings or when to call it quits on a hybrid hearing to reset in person.
2.    Setting up hybrid hearings should enable all participants to see and hear each other. This will require strategic placement of cameras and microphones around the physical courtroom.
3.    Familiarize yourself with access requirements to virtual platforms including the mechanism for sharing documents in a courtroom. This usually requires the judge to embody the traditional judicial role as well as the controller of technology, decorum, and procedure.
4.    Relay strict procedures including what is expected of those on camera (e.g. dress, movement, surroundings, behavior, etc.). This should be achieved in the notice of hearing and possibly announced at the start of the hearing.
5.    Establish specific criteria for when and how to allow hybrid hearings and a procedure to follow in hybrid hearings. This might be an internal document, a paragraph publicized on judicial preference procedures, and/or a standard developed by all family law judicial officers within a courthouse or Circuit.
6.    At the same time, be flexible and creative during the hearing. Hybrid hearings might require a few shortcuts such as holding up a physical sign to the participant to call in.

Extra resources from the Florida Supreme Court COVID-19 Working Group:

Special thanks to Joseph Flannery, Child Support Hearing Officer in Clearwater, Florida for the Sixth Judicial Circuit for his insight on his own successful hybrid hearing courtroom.
Andrea Reid has been an integral member of the Section’s Executive Council and Legislative Committee. She has served the Section for years in various roles: as a Co-Chair of the Legislation Committee, Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Committee, Domestic Violence Committee, and Sponsorship Committee.

In addition, she has been a member of the Section’s Children’s Issues Committee, Family Law Support Issues Committee, Ad Hoc Bylaws Committee., Ad Hoc Parentage Committee, Family Law Ad Hoc Diversity/Inclusion Committee, Family Law Finance Committee, Family Law Ad Hoc Nomenclature Committee, Ad Hoc Access to Justice Committee, Publications Committee, and the Ad Hoc Paternity Issues Committee. 

Andrea has additionally lobbied the Florida Legislature, on the Section’s behalf, on issues such as alimony, child support, time sharing and equitable distribution and served as a Guest Editor of the Commentator. As a result of her years of service and engagement, Andrea received the Family Law Section’s Legislative Award and Spotlight Award in 2021, Legislative award in 2020, the Chairs Award of Special Merit in 2019, the Rising Star Award and the Above and Beyond Award in 2016. 

Andrea is a native Floridian and has served on the boards of several charities, has been appointed by Administrative Order of the Supreme Court to the Mediator Qualification Board and is a member of the Palm Beach County Family Law Inn of Court. 
Reuben is an active and esteemed member of the Section’s Executive Council since 2014. He is a partner at Coleman, Hazzard, Taylor, Klaus, Doupé & Diaz in Naples, Florida and is Board Certified in Marital and Family Law. Reuben has been admitted to the International Academy of Family lawyers and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, where he will begin his term as President in May 2022.  

Rueben has been recognized as SuperLawyers ® and Florida Trend magazine Legal Elite and is an AV Preeminent® Peer Review Rated” by Martindale-Hubbell®. In addition to his service to the Section’s Executive Council, for years Reuben has served the Section in various other capacities: past chair of the Family Law Section, Chair of the CLE Committee, Co-Chair of the Rules and Forms Committee, Co-Chair of Equitable Distribution Committee, Co-Secretary of the Legislation Committee, and as a member of the Family Support Issues Committee, Family Law Appellate Committee, Family Law Ad Hoc Parentage Committee, and Children’s Issues Committee,
Reuben has also served as a Workshop Leader for the Section’s Trial Advocacy Workshop multiple times and is a frequent presenter for the Section, including the annual case law update webinar, 2 Lawyers, 1 Law. He has been published in the Florida Bar Journal discussing “Ruberg, Parry and the Classification of Unvested Stock Options” and has also published “Third Parties in a Dissolution Action in the Summer 2015” Commentator and “But this is a Court of Equity!” which appeared in the Winter 2019 Commentator.
In 2021, the Section awarded Reuben with an Unsung Hero and Legislative awards. 
The Section thanks Reuben for his unwavering support to the Section and the Florida’s families. 
We are so grateful to our Section sponsors! Thank you for your ongoing support of our members and mission.

If your business would like to reach nearly 4,000 Family Law professionals through our various communications platforms and in-person and virtual events, we invite you to consider Section sponsorship. To learn more about benefits and levels, email or click HERE to learn more.
If you have a topic of interest regarding Family Law and you'd like to submit an article for our monthly e-Newsletter, FAMSEG, or our quarterly publication, The Commentator, email for more information. Thank you for your interest in contributing to our member publications!