Members of the Section enjoyed the vines, wines and pines in Napa Valley, California at the Section’s Out-of-State Retreat. The Retreat’s Co-Chairs, Trisha Armstrong and Andrea Reid, along with our Section Administrator, Willie Mae Shepard, put together an event to remember! The Section also wishes to extend a big thank you to Charles Fox Miller for his Professional Tips on How to Practice Family Law within the Bounds of Advocacy; as well as our Sponsors: Diamond Sponsors: Ellirch, Neal, Smith & Stohlman, P.A., and BDO; Cocktail Reception Sponsor: The Law Offices of Joel M. Weissman, P.A.; and our Breakfast Sponsors: Florida Appeals, Psychological Affiliates, SoberLink and United Insurance, Corp. 
 
Please also join us at the Family Law Section’s Annual Meetings held in conjunction with the 2022 Annual Florida Bar Convention at the Hilton Bonnet Creek & Waldorf Astoria from June 22 - 25. The Family Law Section’s Committee Meetings and Annual Awards and Installation Luncheon will be held on Wednesday, June 22, 2022; and the Section’s Executive Council Meeting will be held on Thursday, June 23, 2022. Please make sure you secure your ticket for the Section’s Awards & Installation Luncheon where Philip Wartenberg will be sworn in as the Section’s Chair for the 2022-2023 bar year! The Section will be in great hands, and we look forward to hearing about his wonderful theme and goals for the upcoming bar year!
 
I am so excited to announce that Aimee Gross has been nominated as the Secretary of the Executive Committee and proudly congratulate the slate of professionals who have also been nominated to commence (and some to continue) their service to the Family Law Section’s Executive Council with terms expiring in 2026: Lauren Alperstein, Reuben Doupe, Kim Rommel Enright, Marck Joseph, Chelsea Miller, Andrea Reid, Matthew Thatcher and C. Debra Welch. The Section is also fortunate to have Jaime Epstein take over the Counsel’s secretary vacancy with a term expiring in 2023. 
 
As my term as Chair comes close to an end, I am taking the time to reflect upon all that the Section has achieved this past year—and you were a part of it! Thank you for allowing me this wonderful opportunity to work with you. I leave you with this motivational quote:
 
“The very best thing you can do for the whole world is to make the most of yourself.”
~Wallace Wattles
 
Heather L. Apicella
Chair, 2021-2022
Family Law will present a free, Facebook Live presentation on Thursday, May 25 at 12 p.m.: ‘Strategies to Mitigate Common Educational Conflicts Between Parents,’ presented by Liz Capone, M.S., Certified Witness in Special Education.
 
The free, 20-minute presentation will cover:
  • What to do when parents disagree on their child’s level of academic performance
  • What to do when parents disagree on getting their child educational testing
  • What to do when parents disagree on sending their child to a private school for services

Join the Family Law Section Facebook page HERE.
The Family Law Section’s Annual Meetings will be held in conjunction with the 2022 Annual Florida Bar Convention. The Section’s Committee Meetings will be held on Wednesday, June 22, 2022; and the Executive Council Meeting will be held on Thursday, June 23, 2022.

The link for the Family Law Section’s Awards and Installation Luncheon will be live soon, and you are encouraged to book your hotel room as soon as possible HERE.
By: Philip Schipani, Esq., B.C.A.S.

Parbeen v. Bari, 47 Fla. L. Weekly D641a (Fla. 4th DCA 2022)

This case discusses a type of traditional Islamic prenuptial contract known as a “Mahr” which the parties entered into in lieu of a conventional prenuptial agreement. The parties' Mahr agreement was only two pages long and contained few legally operative clauses other than an explicit promise by Former Husband to pay Former Wife fifteen lac Bangladeshi Taka (“15,00,000” Taka). Five lac Taka was to be paid upon marriage, and ten in the event of a divorce. The trial court determined that 10,00,000 Taka had a United States Dollar value of $11,772.43.
 
According to the Former Husband, concepts such as equitable distribution and alimony do not exist under Shari’a law. The Former Husband argued that the Mahr should have been read as the entirety of the Former Wife’s recovery.  Former Wife, on the other hand, points to the total lack of language in the Mahr agreement stating an intent to abrogate traditional notions of equitable distribution and temporary support. The trial court found that the Former Wife had some equity in the parties home and otherwise concluded that the Mahr limited the Former Wife’s recovery to ten lac Taka and denied the Former Wife’s request for temporary alimony. While continuing to live in the marital home, Former Wife filed several motions for rehearing which the trial court denied. Eventually, Former Husband filed a motion to enforce the trial court's final order and have Former Wife removed from the marital home. The appeal followed.
 
The Appeals Court reviewed the issue, de novo, of whether the Mahr signed by the parties served to bar the Former Wife from recovery of an amount greater than that specified in the agreement. Florida courts, have previously held that Marh’s are enforceable as prenuptial agreements. See Akileh, 666 So. 2d at 248 (“[A Mahr's] secular terms are enforceable as a contractual obligation, notwithstanding that it was entered into as part of a religious ceremony.” (quoting Aziz v. Aziz, 488 N.Y.S. 2d 123, 124 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1985)). Akileh held that “Florida contract law applies to the secular terms of [a Mahr agreement].” Id. Thus, while the parties to a prenuptial agreement -- Islamic or secular -- may contract away their traditional marital rights, they must do so in a way that comports with Florida law, which has a rebuttable presumption in favor of equitable distribution of property in the event of a divorce. See § 61.075(1), Fla. Stat. (2020). To overcome that presumption, the prenuptial agreement's plain language must unambiguously express a desire to waive equitable distribution.   Overcoming the presumption in favor of equitable distribution requires more than a “boilerplate” reference to waiver.   Furthermore, “[t]he court may resort to rules of construction and extrinsic evidence only where the contractual language is ambiguous.”  
 
The plain meaning of the Mahr agreement did not unambiguously express a desire to waive equitable distribution or temporary support. Rather, the Mahr agreement consisted of a two-page pre-printed form with relevant blanks filled in by typewriter. Most of the information contained therein concerns the personal and familial details of the couple, in addition to the date, witnesses, and other procedural matters. Under “amount of dower,” the agreement reflects the following insertion: “15,00,000 - (FIFTEEN LAC) TAKA ONLY,” five lac of which was to be paid at the time of marriage. The Mahr agreement otherwise contains no reference to distribution of the couple's past, present, or future property. As a result, the Appeals Court found that the Mahr agreement could not overcome the strong public policy in favor of equitable distribution and temporary support.
 
The Court held that the trial court erred when it held that the Mahr agreement barred Former Wife from seeking additional forms of distribution and support. The Court remanded with instructions to re-address the issues with respect to the marital home, attorney's fees and alimony.
Meet C. Debra “Deb” Welch, one of the esteemed members of the Executive Council. The Section has been so fortunate to have had Deb has serve as Co-Chair of the Rules and Forms Committee, Continuing Legal Education Committee, Publications Committee, and as a member of the Legislation Committee, Ad Hoc Constitutional Revision Committee, Ad Hoc Access to Justice Committee, Family Law Equitable Distribution Committee, Ad Hoc Guardian Ad Litem Committee, Finance Committee, Ad Hoc Nomenclature Committee, Family Law Long Range Planning Committee, and the Family Law Children’s Issues Committee.

Prior to embarking on her legal career, Deb was an educator and therapist. She holds a Master of Education in counseling and a Bachelor of Arts in psychology. Additionally, since1999, Deb has served as an adjunct faculty member at Palm Beach State College were she teaches Family Law in the college’s paralegal program. Deb has presented at a number of Section events and CLEs including at the Family Law Trial Skills: The Basics and Beyond CLE and on issues such as UCCJEA & UIFSA, Best Practices for Use of Guardian ad Litems and Attorney ad Litems, and LCC’s-All Issues Related to Divorce. 

Debra has also authored Improve Relationships and Improve Your Bottom Line (Along with Your Quality of Life) published in the Winter 2011 version of the Commentator magazine.  She was awarded with the Chair’s Award of Special Merit in 2018. Deb also dedicates her time to mentor Section member law students and less-experienced family law attorneys. 

The Section thanks Deb for her insight, commitment and counsel and is excited that Deb will continue to serve the Section on the Executive Counsel. 
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 sponsorship@familylawfla.org 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 publications@familylawfla.org for more information. Thank you for your interest in contributing to our member publications!