The Family Law Section will host the Fall Committee Meetings on August 21 and our Executive Council Meeting on August 22, both in a virtual format. All the meetings are open for everyone to attend and most committees have unlimited membership. I encourage you to consider joining a committee and becoming involved in the Section. Section participation offers a number of invaluable experiences and opportunities. We had scheduled our biannual leadership retreat in conjunction with the Fall Meetings, but we have postponed it until Spring 2021, due to the pandemic. 

August is ‘back-to-school’ month when families begin to prepare for the upcoming school year.  Since March 2020, the definition of school day has changed for everyone in Florida.   Families have been asked to take on the role of teacher, guidance counselor, and activity director while continuing work and make adjustments to the current status quo.   As 2020 has progressed, many parents are now faced with new questions: Do I let my child attend school in a classroom? What if the other parent does not agree with my decision?  Most parenting plans do not answer these questions; then again, no one could have predicted that we would be facing a worldwide pandemic. 

As section members, we need to assist our clients with these new challenges which also include job loss, no internet access, the fear of being able to meet their financial obligations, nonpayment of Court order support, to name a few. Many of us have been asked about filing modifications of support and timesharing, and contempt motions when someone is not following the terms of the agreement and even how to ensure that their children remain healthy and COVID free.

We need to explain to our clients that a Court hearing to decide these issues may not be swift as the entire judicial system is moving at a slower pace based upon the additional time required for virtual hearings. This response will not always make our clients happy, it is our duty to let them know that there are no guarantees in Court; and that, we can never predict the outcome of a hearing. It is important to remind our clients that an agreement on issues especially concerning their children is always better than letting a Judge take away their ability to decide. As counselors at law, we should encourage resolution and use the Courts as a last resort. 

In closing there was a quote that I recently came across and it hit me hard in its simple truth:

"When I was a little boy, my mom always told me happiness was the key to life. When I got to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up; and, I said “happy”. They told me that I did not understand the assignment…and I told them that they did not understand life."

I have had the luxury of looking back over many decades and I can tell you that my fondest memories are all during the happiest times of my life. Although we are experiencing a period of our lives that requires our full attention and requires us to put forth serious thought in all that we do for ourselves and our clients, remember to focus on your happiness. Allow yourself to be happy. You will not regret it.

Douglas A. Greenbaum, Chair
Friday, Aug. 21, 8AM - 5PM
Mark your calendars now for the Section's upcoming Fall Committee Meetings to be held virtually on Friday, August 21, from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Wait, you're not a member of a Committee yet? Well, what are you waiting for! Email us at and join us to share your insights, experience and expertise with your Family Law peers.

Click HERE for Zoom meeting information, and download a PDF of the meeting lineup HERE.
From Recent Notable Cases
McGovern v. Clark, 45 Fla. L. Weekly D1658 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2020)

This case interprets the Florida’s “paternity” statute’s treatment of the biological connection of each parent in the context of a same-sex dissolution of marriage action involving four children, two born prior to the marriage (but during the relationship) and two born after the marriage. The lower court found two children born prior to the marriage were not of the marriage because one of the parties had no biological connection with the children. The appellate court overturned the trial court, ruling that Section 742.092, Florida Statutes, does not require a biological connection for the children to become “legitimate and children of the marriage.” The case was remanded back to the trial court to further determination based on the appellate court’s interpretation. The District Court implied that it would have considered the constitutionality of the statute. However, the lower court did not rule on the statute’s constitutionality, despite the appellant raising it during the trial below. The appellant did not notice the Attorney General or State Attorney as required by Fla. Civ. L.R.P. 1.071.   

Haeberli v. Haeberli, 45 Fla. L. Weekly D992 (Fla. 5th DCA 2020)

The trial court weighed the terms of a marital settlement agreement against Chapter 61.14, Florida Statutes. The Former Wife requested modification of child support and alimony. Terms regarding modification of alimony and child support were explicitly stated in the parties’ marital settlement agreement. The appellate court concurred that the trial court was not required to rely exclusively on parties’ previously executed marital settlement agreement, even though agreement described certain circumstances under which child support or alimony could be modified. Nothing in the agreement made those provisions exclusive nor in any way limited or prohibited application of modification provisions in Florida Statutes Section 61.14.  

Change in circumstances existed to support upward modification of child support where the parties’ disabled minor child required twenty four-hour care, mother only had twenty hours of respite care per week and was, therefore, unable to work. The Court also noted that the Former Wife “left no stone unturned” as it related to finding medical care covered either by private health insurance or government programs. Former Husband experienced an increase in income as an attorney.

Philip J. Schipani is a Board Certified Specialist in Matrimonial & Family Law and Partner with Schipani & Norman, P.A., based in Sarasota. Schipani serves on the Executive Council of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar, and has served as Chair of a number of Committees, including Domestic Violence, Rules & Forms and the Ad Hoc Special Needs Children Committee.
Microsoft Teams: Did You Know?
Prior to COVID-19, you might have been familiar with Zoom. Nowadays, you might wonder why you had not heard of or used Microsoft Teams. Like Zoom, Teams is an application with videoconferencing, screen sharing, and, chat features. However, Teams also has the ability to collaborate on documents, participate in instant messaging, and, share documents across Microsoft platforms. Both platforms are user-friendly.
Did you know that:

  1. Microsoft Teams is completely free to use and can be accessed via computer, tablet, and/or, smartphone?
  2. You can use the Teams app or access Teams via the web. (Note: You have access to more features through the app.)
  3. You do not need to have an Office account to use Teams.
  4. You could record your meetings on Teams and that the Chats are automatically included.
  5. You can translate the Chat to over 39 languages.
  6. Teams will provide a transcript of your recording.
  7. You can view up to nine people in the gallery view. The video keeps changing in order to show the four most recent speakers. Microsoft in working on “enhancing” the number of people that you can see at one time.
  8. In addition to using the standard virtual backgrounds, you can blur your background or upload a new one.
  9. You can share your complete screen (desktop) or just certain windows.
  10. You can set quiet hours to avoid late night, early morning, and, weekend notifications.

Tenesia C. Hall is Litigation Director/Attorney-Family Law for the Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association. She serves on the Technology Committee of the Family Law Section of The Florida Bar, and is actively involved with a number of organizations, including Orange County Bar Association Family Law Committee, Florida Bar Grievance Committee 9D Florida Bar Legal Needs of Children Central Florida Association for Women Lawyers, Orange County Bar Association, among others. 
Helping Children with Special Needs in a
Distance-Learning World 
Meeting the needs of children at home can be challenging under any set of circumstances. Unknowingly, families got a ‘test run’ this spring with their children after schools announced that distance-learning would replace traditional live teaching during the last eight weeks of class in 2020.  On July 13, 2020, school districts across the country began to publish their latest plans and options with regards to school attendance this fall semester. Options vary from in-person schooling to full-time distance learning to blended schedules which switch between these two methods. One thing is certain: the approach to learning is unsettled and will likely vary between districts throughout the state.

Some of the most important points to remember is to try to stay calm and reassure the children that they are safe; but, they need to follow certain rules such as hand-washing, wearing masks, keeping a proper distance from people, etc. Parents and caretakers need to be organized and creative during these extraordinary times. Consistency, routine, and daily structure are important things to keep the children as calm as possible. In addressing school and academics, parents have time to get prepared and make learning as fun as possible. Virtual learning can be challenging especially for children with disabilities. In stating this, the parents should be in contact with the school, therapists, and doctors to be able to collaborate with them, get ideas, have everyone on the same page, and provide mutual support.

Families with special needs children, who see the world differently, should plan and have a distance-learning plan spelled out that will best meet the needs of their children. The more support you provide and preplanning you do, the less likely your child will fall behind with their academics.  Don’t panic! Here are some tips that can be helpful to achieve effective learning while reducing anxiety and stress for the children.

  • Provide predictable structure in the day
  • Use a calendar, so the child understands what day of the week it is
  • Make a daily and weekly schedule so the child understands what is being asked of him/her throughout the day and what is coming up throughout the week. Post the schedule visibly in the home.
  • Establish and implement routines: wake-up times, dressing, mealtime, school work, chores, bedtime
  • Use an analog clock and timer to inform the child of the time of events during the day and to prepare for transitions
  • Within the schedules, map out the entire day, not just academics, but breaks, play time, meals, etc.
  • Make learning fun! Have activities that incorporate the child’s interest with learning; i.e., cooking, Legos, painting, creative play, etc.
  • Use multi-sensory strategies for showing the child how to wash hands, wear masks and learn new skills
  • Have a specific designated area and desk for learning. Set up an area for virtual learning and another area for paper and pencil learning. Also:
  1. Communicate simple expectations from the start, such as sitting here the entire time and participating in the task or program
  2. Have any necessary materials or supplies out, organized and ready ahead of time before you start
  3. Take scheduled breaks
  4. Implement a consistent reward system for the parent and the teacher participating in the virtual learning
  • If possible, try to keep virtual learning out of the child’s bedroom because the child, especially if they do not like school, will associate their bedroom with school and this may affect their sleep
  • When giving instructions, use as few words as possible. Make sure the instructions are clear and concise. When possible, use visuals along with verbal instructions
  • Incorporate some outdoor and physical activities.
  • Practice self-soothing activities and sensory activities to assist the child with their attention, anxiety and reduce their frustration levels. Include breathing exercises, listening to music, etc.
  • Contact your child’s teacher and administration on a routine basis to know what they expect of the child, how services are going to be implemented and to work together with the school and keep open communication. Ask for adjustments and accommodations to make things workable
  • Make sure the child’s IEP does not expire during these times. The school districts are holding virtual IEP meetings.

Maria C. Gonzalez is a Board Certified Marital and Family Lawyer by the Florida Bar Board of Legal Specialization and Education as well as a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Law Mediator. She was appointed as chair of the Family Law Certification Committee for 2010-2011 and is past-chair of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar.
Finding Your Calm During The Pandemic
During this time of the pandemic, we find ourselves in uncharted territory, navigating life in ways that are unfamiliar. This unfamiliar situation is causing many of us to feel stressed or anxious some of the time or even a great deal of the time. Finding ways to reduce stress and anxiety is important for our health and wellbeing. A great way to reduce stress and anxiety is through the evidence-based practice of mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation is something anyone can do. And the great news is that you cannot fail at it!

Mindfulness means simply being aware of what is happening in the present moment and having an attitude of acceptance. For most of us, we spend countless moments reviewing or analyzing the past or fast forwarding and thinking about the future, often worrying about things that have not happened yet or may never happen. The truth is that we can only live our lives in this moment right here – the present moment. We can’t live in the past or the future. Mindfulness is a training that helps us spend more moments in the present and helps us begin to notice when our minds have wandered away. When we are resting in the present moment, we tend to feel a sense of calm or, at a minimum, a greater ability to be with things as they are. 

Mindfulness has to do with “being” as opposed to “doing”. Mindfulness trains the mind to rest in being, without trying to acquire, gain, or achieve anything. The being-mode is the exact opposite of this doing-mode. So much of our day is spent in the doing mode – talking, thinking, moving from place-to-place. Although both modes are valuable, by living almost exclusively in the doing-mode, we lose contact with “being” and may start feeling restless, pressured and out of balance. Mindfulness helps us regain our sense of balance.

The “S.T.O.P.” practice is an easy way to bring a moment of mindfulness into your day:
-      S = Stop - just pause/stop whatever you are doing;
-      T = Take a breath;
-      O = Observe - observe your body, your mental state or your surroundings;
-      P = Proceed - continue with whatever you were doing. 

Stop, Take a Breath, Observe and Proceed. Try adding a few STOP moments into the flow of your day to help you find your calm! 

Alice Lash has practiced mindfulness meditation for nearly 20 years and in 2009, having retired from the practice of law, opened Mindfultime in South Miami where she offers mindfulness instruction. Alice has since taught mindfulness to a wide array of organizations and groups, including publicly traded companies, cancer survivor groups and incarcerated women, and helped hundreds of people develop a mindfulness practice tailored to their unique needs. 
In our "Faces of Family Law" video series, we will introduce you to various members of the Executive Council and Executive Committee, to help you learn more - and feel connected to - your fellow Section colleagues. In our series debut, we welcome William "Trace" Norvell, III of The Reid Law Group. Trace is an Executive Council member, and a member of several FLS committees, including Technology, CLE, Publications, and more.

Click the video to learn more about Trace and some of the benefits he's enjoyed by becoming involved with the Section.
Ad Hoc Probate Jurisdiction
Kimberly Rommel-Enright, Esq., Legal Aid Society, West Palm Beach
The Ad Hoc Probate Jurisdiction Committee reviews statutes that impact both family and probate cases and determines if there is a need to make revisions to clarify those laws.

The Committee has completed a six-year project of writing legislation that does, in fact, codify the case law as it applies to the support for incapacitated adult children. The legislation was approved by the Section and brought to Tallahassee last session where we secured sponsors, and the bill was successfully filed in the House and Senate.

The goal of the Committee this bar cycle is to get the legislation passed in both Houses.

The Committee’s work supports Florida’s Families by establishing a process by which incapacitated adult children can secure support from a parent, as permitted by case law. If passed the law would create the road map for families, lawyers and judges to request and order the support.

We welcome all interested Committee members! Just email Kimberly Rommel-Enright your information and we'll gladly include you in our upcoming committee activities!
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 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!