Welcome to our August edition of FAMSEG! With the June Annual meetings now in the rear-view mirror, we are getting ready for our next round of Section meetings this month. I hope that you join us for the Family Law Section’s Fall Meetings and Leadership Retreat being held at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. The Section’s Committee Meetings will take place on Thursday, August 25th; and our Leadership Retreat will be held on Friday, August 26th and Saturday August 27th, to be immediately followed by our Executive Council meeting on Saturday afternoon.

At the June Installation Luncheon I announced the theme of our year: “Embracing Our Section’s Diversity, Striving Towards Better Inclusion.” Our Leadership Retreat will emphasize this theme with a diversity workshop being presented by Wilhemina Tribble, Chief Diversity Officer at Florida Southern College. I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at our meetings. We have negotiated with the hotel a great rate of $209 per night for that event, so please sign up by August 3 to take advantage of this discounted rate (use Group Reservation Code 7920). You also don’t want to miss the Section’s dinner at Fleming’s of Coral Gables. Please make sure to secure your ticket for that dinner through the Section’s website. 

Throughout the year, I plan to continue the emphasis on our diversity and inclusion theme. Stay tuned for the upcoming announcement (and registration link) in early September regarding our Certification Review program to be held in January at the Gaylord Palms, with a diverse array of topics and speakers. Our CLE committee, led this year by Trace Norvell and Jamie Epstein, are also working on an expansion of our popular webinar series, as well as a return to the Panhandle for a live CLE. Please be assured that we plan to keep providing for all of our (roughly 4000) members the same high level CLE programming that you have come to expect from the Section.

I hope to see you all in Coral Gables!

Philip S. Wartenberg
Chair, 2022-2023
We've got a jam-packed agenda for the upcoming Leadership Retreat and Fall Meetings, taking place at The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, August 24-27. If you haven't already booked your room, do it TODAY, as our special Section hotel rate ends on Wed., August 3!

To register for the Retreat, click HERE.

To reserve your room(s), click HERE and use Code 7920.
TRIAL PREPARATION:
Everything You Want To Know But Were Afraid To Ask

Board certified family law attorneys David Hirschberg, Esq, and Karen Weintraub, Esq, will speak on preparing for trial in family law cases. 1.5 CLE Credits.

12:00 PM – 12:05 PM
Opening Remarks and Introductions
Stacey Cohen, Esq., Fort Lauderdale

12:05 PM – 1:05 PM
Trial Preparation: Everything You Want to Know But Were Afraid to Ask
David Hirschberg, Esq., B.C.S., Boca Raton
Karen Weintraub, Esq., B.C.S., Fort Lauderdale

1:05 PM – 1:25 PM
Questions and Answers
Stacey Cohen

1:25 PM – 1:30 PM
Closing Remarks
Stacey Cohen
In-State Retreat Co-Chairs Belinda Lazzarra and Beth Luna with Phil Wartenberg in Sarasota.
The Executive Committee team and Section Administrator planning the programs and events for 2022-2023 Bar cycle.
By: Sarah Sullivan, Esq.

As our children head back to school, many parents are gearing up for accommodations and services that help their children succeed. All children living in the United States have the right to a free public education. Both the United States and Florida Constitution guarantees all children equal educational opportunities. The Americans with Disabilities Act became Federal Law in July 1990. But even before that, disabled individuals, caregivers, and parent advocates worked tirelessly to end discrimination against individuals with disabilities. 

The Americans with Disabilities Act resulted from the earlier passage of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act which banned discrimination based on disability. Systemic institutionalization, social marginalization, and community stigmatization historically kept children and adults with disabilities from living freely and independently in communities. Most of us grew up with the protection of the ADA—with accessible parking, bathrooms, hotel rooms, public spaces, etc. We also grew up with the societally accepted concept that disabled individuals have a right to live with their friends and families in communities and not segregated or isolated because of their disabilities.

For divorcing parents of a child with special needs, the paradigm shift of where to “place” a disabled child, has, for the betterment of us all, become instead a question of how to come up with a parenting plan that defines the best interest of a special needs child. Public policy supports the least restrictive and nurturing services with the goal of keeping the child thriving within the community at large. It is important that the Family Law Section champions legal policy that supports the equal protection, due process, and dignity of children and adults with disabilities.  The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that ensures students with disabilities are provided a Free Appropriate Public Education that is tailored to their individual needs. The IDEA provides families with tools necessary to access educational resources and accommodations that keep their children in neighborhood schools. Section 504 is a general civil rights law guaranteeing reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities. Keeping track of which law covers which service to individuals with disabilities can be confusing. For more information from a parent perspective, click HERE

With protections such as the Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the IDEA and ADA-- children with disabilities have enjoyed higher rates of high school graduation, post-secondary education, and employment.  As we celebrate our freedoms, let us also recognize the freedoms enumerated for individuals with disabilities and may we grow richer as a society for their inclusion in our communities.
 
Sarah Sullivan is co-chair of the Special Needs Children Committee and member of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar.
By: Ronald Kaufman, BCS

With war raging in Europe, inflation at home, and an uptick in high conflict cases, we could all use some good news.

The good news is you’re not alone. Dating sites are prolific, making it easy to meet new people, and it’s nice to be noticed.

Now the bad news. The people noticing you are criminals. Scammers are studying your email, social media, and now, your dating profile.

Last year I wrote that lawyers were increasingly falling prey to ‘spear phishing’ attacks; targeted email scams directed at specific people. In 2021, business email compromise scams caused over $2 billion in losses.

This year, ‘romance scams’ are hot. The latest data show romance scams are up nearly 80 percent. They’re called romance scams because fraudsters draw you in with good looking photos and intriguing profiles on dating sites and social media.

After swiping right, scammers will tell you they work overseas, giving them an excuse for why they can’t meet you in person. After the initial contact, they’ll ask to move the conversation to private, encrypted apps — like WhatsApp – where corporate rules don’t apply.

Once hooked, victims are encouraged to send money with gift cards. But the newer trend is cryptocurrency. Scammers will try to get you to download dubious investment apps for your phone or computer. When you try to withdraw your money, you find you are locked out of your account and have to pay an exit fee.

It gets worse. Victims are enticed to invest ever larger amounts of money into their new cryptocurrency accounts before their suitor ghosts them. In China, they call these “pig butchering” scams. Victims who paid in cryptos lost about $10,000 on average.

Romance scams are more common because of social engineering tactics. Social engineering attacks manipulate you with psychology: “baiting” (being given a virus infected flash drive as a reward for taking a survey.); “scareware” (websites claiming to have detected a virus and directing you to download their malware to cure the problem); and of course, “spear fishing”.

When searching for romance online, use protection. Choose carefully what you post. Be cautious when a relationship is being pushed too fast. Download the latest software for your phone, and only download from legitimate sources. With a little effort, your news will be good.
By: Philip J. Schipani, B.C.S.

Moquin v. Bergeron, 2022 WL 1482440 (Fla. 4th DCA 2022)

This case involves a prenuptial agreement from the province of Quebec in Canada and a choice of law issue, as well as timesharing of older child.
 
The Former Husband appealed an order and final judgment of dissolution of marriage on several grounds: (1) the trial court erred in interpreting Quebec Law; (2) the trial court’s findings under section 61.075; (3) the trial court’s award of alimony and attorneys’ fees; and (4) failing to make sufficient findings as to the parties’ then-minor child under section 61.13.
 
Prior to the parties’ marriage, they signed a July 17, 1992, marriage contract. The Marriage Contract provided that the parties would adopt the separate property regime, pursuant to the provision of the Civil Code of the Province of Quebec, and that they would cover marital expenses in proportion to their respective ability. Under the separate property regime “each spouse had the administration, enjoyment and free disposal of his or her property”.
 
In 2007, the parties moved to Florida and ultimately became permanent Florida Residents. Subsequently, two homes were purchased using the Husband’s separate assets, and the Wife acknowledged that she did not contribute to the purchase of these residences. In the underlying dissolution of marriage proceedings, the trial court applied Florida's equitable distribution statute §61.075, instead of the Civil Code of the Province of Quebec, when distributing the proceeds from the sale of the two residences.
 
Both parties agreed that the Law of Quebec applied. Quebec has a Family Patrimony Law that would have divided the parties’ property similarly to Florida Law. However, Quebec’s Patrimony Law does not apply to people living outside of Quebec. Since the parties had become residents of Florida, both parties stipulated that the Patrimony Law did not apply. Nevertheless, the Wife argued that the trial court could look to the Patrimony Law to approximate what the outcome would be under Florida Law. Subsequently, the trial court applied Florida’s Equitable distribution Statute.
 
On appeal, the Husband argued that the parties stipulated the Quebec family patrimony regime did not apply, and the trial court erred in distributing the residences as “Family Patrimony.” The Court agreed with the Husband and reversed the trial court.
 
When reviewing the application of foreign law it is a question of law and therefore the standard of review is de novo. “A trial court's determination of foreign law is treated as a ruling on a question of law over which an appellate court exercises plenary [or de novo] review.” Transportes Aereos Nacionales, S.A. v. De Brenes, 625 So. 2d 4, 5 (Fla. 3d DCA 1993). The standard of review for the interpretation of a prenuptial agreement is also de novo Hahamovitch v. Hahamovitch, 174 So. 3d 983, 986 (Fla. 2015).
 
The Court held that the trial court erred in applying Florida's equitable distribution statute when distributing proceeds from the two residences under section 61.075, despite the existence of a prenuptial agreement that clearly and unambiguously stated Quebec law applied to the distribution of the couple's property. The Court reversed and remanded to distribute the proceeds pursuant to the parties’ Marriage Contract which adopted the separate property regime, pursuant to the provisions of the Civil Code of the Province of Quebec.
 
The Court held that regardless of whether the family patrimony articles applied, the parties specifically stipulated “the Family Patrimony Articles of the Civil Code of Quebec do not apply to the partition of property for spouses who do not reside in Quebec at the time of dissolution of marriage” and the family patrimony articles did “not apply to the parties herein who have been residing in Florida since 2007.” In light of such stipulation, the parties’ Marriage Contract—which stated the parties “adopt[ed] the separate property regime, pursuant to the provisions of the Civil Code of the Province of Quebec”—was controlling. The existing contract was valid and enforceable and directed the parties to use the laws of Quebec. 
 
The Court also held that because the parties’ child was no longer a minor, the issue on appeal regarding the child was moot. See Gamache v. Gamache, 14 So. 3d 1236, 1238 (Fla. 2d DCA 2009) (holding that in a marriage dissolution action, neither parent may take custody of a competent, legal adult). Lastly, the Court did not disturb the trial court’s ruling regarding attorneys’ fees and alimony and remanded the issue back to the trial court in light of the Court’s holding regarding property distribution.
Marck K. Joseph, Esq. , Committee Chair

The Diversity Committee is committed to supporting Section Chair, Phil Wartenberg, in his stated goal to focus on diversity and inclusion within the Section.

As a part of these efforts, we are creating a formal mission statement as it relates to the goal of diversity and inclusion both within the Section and for Florida's families.

Other committee goals include working with the Florida Bar's Diversity Committee, finding ways to provide opportunities and mentorship to attorneys in groups that have been underrepresented within the Section, and to regularly provide content regarding this topic to FAMSEG and the Commentator.

If you're interested in joining the committee, email us HERE.
SPONSORS WANTED! 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 sponsorship@familylawfla.org or click HERE to learn more.
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 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!