Time flies! I cannot believe that it will be 2 months since I was sworn-in as your Chair of the Family Law Section! It is that time of the year when school is starting, the summer vacations (or staycations) are drawing to an end, and thoughts about the upcoming Fall events are on the forefront of our minds. As published on the Family Law Section’s website, we have a lot of fabulous events on the horizon! Of course, all COVID-19 safety protocols, as set forth by the CDC, will be in place during the live events.
 
Our Fall meetings will be held at Sanibel Harbour Resort & Spa from August 26-28, 2021. I truly want to thank the Chairs of each of the Committees for all of their hard work. Many of the Chairs are transitioning into new roles, and our Fall Meetings will be a great way to keep the momentum of their hard work going.

In addition to our Fall meetings, registration just went live for the Trial Advocacy Workshop! This Workshop only occurs every other year so I consider myself lucky it to have fallen during my year as Chair! The Trial Advocacy Workshop will be held on October 7-10, 2021, at the JW Marriott Tampa Water Street. The Event Chairs are Andrea Reid, Sonja Jean and Elisha Roy, along with our historian, Laura Davis-Smith. These women have been putting in countless hours to ensure that this Workshop provides each attendee with a truly incredible and invaluable experience. I am so very grateful to our Speakers and Workshop Leaders – this event is guaranteed to be outstanding! I would be remiss if I did not mention that the Workshop is strictly limited to a total of 80 attendees and it is guaranteed to sell out quickly – so make sure to register fast!
 
Finally, the Section In-State Retreat will take place on November 4-7, 2021, at the Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort & Spa! Christopher Rumbold and Kristin Kirkner are the Chairs of the Retreat and have truly created a phenomenal experience for each guest. This Retreat will give each guest a chance to take a break from the stressors that life throws our way and reconnect with family and friends!
 
As many of you heard me say during the Installation Ceremony in June, the theme for my year as your Chair is: “Positivity and Kindness.” I have learned that simply looking at an issue or situation that appears to be a serious obstacle with a positive outlook will change the outcome and ultimate conclusion. On June 9, 2021, when I took over as Chair of this Section, the feelings were incredible. Every single day, I feel truly grateful and blessed to be in this position. Because time really does fly and is so very precious, it is important that we all take time out of our extraordinarily busy days to focus on ourselves and think about what we are truly grateful for. I am so very excited about this upcoming year and I know that together, we will be able to do wonderful things for the Section! 
 
I will leave you with this – “You don’t always need a plan. Sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, let go, and see what happens.” ~ Mandy Hale
We're very excited about seeing everyone live and in-person during our Annual Executive Council and Executive Committee Fall Meetings, taking place August 26-28 at the Marriott Sanibel Harbour Resort & Spa! Rooms are going quickly, so reserve yours today HERE!

Our Meeting Schedule is below:
  • Thursday, August 26, 2021 – Welcome Reception at 6p.m.
  • Friday, August 27, 2021 – FLS Committee Meetings
  • Saturday, August 28, 2021 – FLS Executive Council Meeting

NOTE: All CDC recommendations and host venue policies will be strictly adhered to during in-person meetings.
Join your fellow Section members and Family Law peers (in person!) for our signature programs and events in 2021-2022. We look forward to seeing you soon!
VIRTUAL

Thurs., August 19, 11:30AM - 1:30PM: CLE WEBINAR: Substance Abuse & Mental Health Issues in Family Law Practice and Our Profession. Sign up HERE.

IN-PERSON

Thurs., August 26 - Sat., August 28: Executive Committee and Executive Council Fall 2021 Meetings at the Marriott Sanibel Harbour Resort & Spa. Register HERE.

Thurs., October 7 - Sun., Oct 10: Trial Advocacy Seminar at the JW Marriott Tampa Waterstreet. Register HERE.

Thurs., November 4 - Sun., November 7: In-State Retreat at the Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort and Spa. Learn more HERE.

Wed., April 20 - Sun., April 24, 2022: Out-of-State Retreat at the Vintage House at The Estate Yountville, CA. Learn more HERE.
Meet your In-State Retreat Chairs, Kristin Kirkner and Christopher Rumbold, and our amazing Section Administrator, Willie Mae Shepherd, who are working on an incredible Retreat at the Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort & Spa. A special thank you for all your hard work on this important (and fun!) annual Section event!

Save the Date for November 4-7 and let's make this Retreat one for the memory books!
Do you have a product or service that aligns with the needs of our Section members? Would you like to have an opportunity to promote it - in person? If so, then sponsoring our Section's upcoming Trial Advocacy Workshop in Tampa this October is just the place for you!

Find out more about Sponsorship Opportunities for Trial Ad and other Section opportunities HERE.
Amended Florida Supreme Court Administrative Order Re:  COVID-19 
On July 29, 2021, Chief Justice Charles T. Canady entered an amendment to Administrative Order No. AOSC21-17, In Re:  COVID 19-Health and Safety Protocols and Emergency Operational Measures for Florida Appellate and Trial Courts.  Review and download the Order HERE.
 
Amendment to Florida Law Summary Judgment Rule 
On July 8, 2021, the Supreme Court has amended family law procedural rules to include the summary judgment standard.  Read more about the amendment in Florida Bar News HERE. 
Are you interested in becoming a mentor or obtaining a mentor to advance your family law advocacy?  For information, visit the Section’s page HERE, where you'll find a list of experienced Section member attorneys who serve as mentors to other Section member law students and other, less-experienced family law attorneys. 
Asad v. Sheikh, 2021 WL 2877953, (Fla. 5th DCA 2021) This case is a good demonstration of the conundrum of what to do if an agreement contains an error which may be considered a “mutual mistake.” In this case, the Former Wife appealed the trial court’s order denying her motion to reform a mediated marital settlement agreement (“MSA”). The parties entered into an MSA several months after the filing of their dissolution of marriage action. Less than a week after the execution of said MSA, the Former Wife filed a motion to correct the mutual mistake alleging that as a result of a drafting oversight, the disposition of an investment account was omitted from the MMSA. The investment account was alleged to be a marital asset but solely titled in the Former Husband’s name.
 
Thereafter, the trial court entered a final judgment dissolving the marriage, incorporating the MSA and reserving jurisdiction to address the investment account. A subsequent hearing took place where the Former Wife was prepared to present testimony and parol evidence, specifically, the mediator’s notes. The trial court, however, only heard argument of counsel as to whether an evidentiary hearing was necessary and after hearing argument of counsel, the trial court concluded that an evidentiary hearing was not necessary. After taking the matter under advisement, the trial court entered an order denying the Former Wife’s motion stating that an evidentiary hearing was “not warranted”.
 
The Court reversed holding that “[a] court of equity has the power to reform a written instrument where, due to a mutual mistake, the instrument as drawn does not accurately express the true intention or agreement of the parties to the instrument.” Providence Square Ass'n v. Biancardi, 507 So. 2d 1366, 1369 (Fla. 1987). “A mistake is mutual when the parties agree to one thing and then, due to either a scrivener's error or inadvertence, express something different in the written instrument.” Circle Mortg. Corp. v. Kline, 645 So. 2d 75, 78 (Fla. 4th DCA 1994). Thus, the reformation of a written instrument does not alter the agreement of the parties. Rather, the reformation corrects a defective written instrument so that it accurately reflects the parties’ agreement. Providence Square, 507 So. 2d. at 1369–70. Parol evidence is admissible “for the purpose of demonstrating that the true intent of the parties was something other than that expressed in the written instrument.” Id. at 1371.
 
In conclusion, where a motion to reform a mediated settlement agreement adequately alleges a claim for relief based on mutual mistake, the issue must be resolved by evidentiary hearing. Moree v. Moree, 59 So. 3d 205, 207–08 (Fla. 2d DCA 2011).
I’m very paranoid when emailing wire instructions. I send them using encrypted email, and then call to confirm receipt. I warn clients to call me before wiring me money to verify my account information. I do the same thing when wiring funds out.

Why so skittish? Because, lawyers are falling prey to wire instruction scams, especially ‘spear phishing’ attacks. Getting skinned out of thousands of dollars is bad enough, but if it’s your trust account, you could also get skewered with a malpractice claim and then filleted by the Bar.

One scam snaring lawyers comes camouflaged as an innocent email with your client’s wire instructions. The email has a spoofed sender address. It looks like your client emailed it, but really a fraudster did, and some hapless lawyer is about to pay the wrong account.

How do hackers get everyone’s emails in the first place? The answer is the ‘Business Email Compromise’ (BEC) scam. In a typical BEC scam, you get an email that looks like it came from a client, friend, or legitimate company.

These are not the obvious "Salutations from the Prince of Nigeria!" emails. Spear phishing emails are sophisticated attacks on targeted people. These scammers do their homework, know their craft, use the right language, then stalk their prey.

Instead of a sloppy email from Prince Olugbo of Ugbo Kingdom who needs to park $750,000,000 because he doesn’t trust anyone but you, imagine getting a Dropbox link sent from opposing counsel containing overdue discovery. The email has spoof links to Dropbox which actually redirect you to a website disguised to look like the real thing.

“Oh great” you say, “now what?” A few suggestions. Be skeptical. Confirm emails by looking at them closely (kelly@hotmail[dot]com is not the same as kelley@hotmail[dot]com) Verify wire instructions by picking up the phone and calling your contact. Tell your clients to do the same. Check URL links by hovering over them to make sure they are not directing you to a different website. Assume your email is compromised. Alert your staff. With any luck, you’ll be paranoid like me.
August is Kindness Month and a valuable opportunity to reflect on our professional conduct as Family Lawyers. A recent study from the University of California at Berkeley has shown that kind people report higher self-esteem, less depression and anxiety, and better overall physical health [1]. Being kind can make us happier, more fulfilled individuals and also better, more in-tune, counselors, advocates, and colleagues.

Intrinsic to our responsibility to practice professionally is a duty to be kind. Encouragement of kind and respectful behavior is a main theme of the Bounds of Advocacy Goals of Family Lawyers in Florida, published by The Florida Bar Family Law Section. The Bounds of Advocacy include goals such as: “An Attorney should strive to lower the emotional level of family disputes by treating counsel and the Parties with respect”; (1.1) “An Attorney should refuse to participate in vindictive conduct and should strive to lower the emotional level of a family dispute by treating all other participants with respect”; (2.2) and “An attorney should accord clients respect” (3.1) [2].

Kindness can open new possibilities of happiness and success for Family Lawyers and clients. Taking steps to be kinder leads to greater personal satisfaction and increased professionalism. The American Bar Association suggests that building an “empathetic mindset,” by slowing down and taking the time to appreciate other points of view, even when those views are not obvious or compatible with our own, can increase lawyers’ productivity and performance, drive client satisfaction, and ultimately lead to greater success [3].

Being kinder to ourselves, our colleagues, and our clients is a privilege and responsibility of a professional Family Lawyer.

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!