The Florida Bar Family Law Section Monthly Newsletter
Please submit news and articles to FAMSEG Editor Ron Kauffman.

Abigail M. Beebe
The Family Law Section had the best time in April attending the Section's SOLD OUT In-State Retreat at the remarkable Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo. The members and guests in attendance enjoyed all that Ocean Reef has to offer. For our CLE component, we welcomed Rick Brown, LMHC, creator of  Imago Relationships Therapy and enjoyed his lecture entitled "An Innovative Way to Build the Best Relationships." Many of us adventured on an Eco-Kayak Tour Experience with a front-row view of the Florida mangroves, bird rookeries, and unique fish as we kayaked through crystal clear Florida Keys water on a guided tour. On Saturday, we divided into groups for a true Ocean Reef Golf Cart Scavenger Hunt, which covered every inch of Ocean Reef, and closed out the wonderful retreat with a Lobster Bake Section Dinner on our own private beach, followed by a s'mores party and bonfire. This spectacular event was absolutely perfect from beginning to end thanks to Secretary of the Family Law Section and dear friend, Heather Apicella, along with two of the Section's true shining stars, Trish Armstrong and Michelle Klinger-Smith. This In-State Retreat was exactly what was envisioned when selecting Ocean Reef Club and these wonderful ladies truly made it all a reality. Thank you! 

Throughout the last several months, it's become a repeat theme for me, in this practice, this act of balancing our clients' expectations while taking into account their families as well as financial realities. For all of us Family Law practitioners, the daily struggles of our practices are real. Those in this profession know we have a really tough job. We are challenged with giving the best possible advice to people going through their worst struggles and emotional pain. It's not a girlfriend calling with her woes or a family member about money. These are people we likely just met and they are seeking help with complex issues relating to their children, their finances and their homes. More importantly, they are navigating the unknown of their entire future. What we offer them --- "our advice" ---  is frequently nothing they want to hear and at a cost they never want to incur. Yet, our job is to zealously advocate, to be available to them, to listen, and to provide them with sound, realistic, and honest advice, while also managing their often too-high expectations that are clouded or fueled by emotion. Some days it feels like all I do is deliver bad news. But other days we know we are helping people, and on occasion, when the stars align, we see that we've actually made a difference in someone's life, and it's on those days we know we are doing something right!

So the next time you ever have a "Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day," remember that what we do is challenging and what we are there for is to try and help a family through a very terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day and make it as painless and harmless as possible.

We all hang up the telephone after a phone call shaking our heads in utter disbelief; feeling like a broken record, or that you will never get back that hour spent or that your words had absolutely NO impact on the person on the other end. Of course, at times, the good side versus the bad side of any given family law matter is clear. But often times--- it simply doesn't matter which side--- both parties are difficult.

We are always hearing the same phrase over and over again from fellow marital and family law attorneys: "In family law, people are at their worst. In criminal law, people are at their best."

We are all too well aware of the statistics about the high divorce rate. How many people do you know who are divorced, or are in the middle of a divorce right now? One, two, 10? Divorce is not a foreign topic to any of us.

Yes, we know that "50%" is the number cited by the world, when we all probably can agree, at the very least, that it is likely more than that. Let's face it; divorce is rampant. If you don't think so, either you are living in some unicorn area of Florida or you aren't paying attention.

Our courts are backlogged. The judges do not want to hear parties bickering over "pots and pans" or "why John did not pick up little Suzy on time" or "who gets the private jet on Sundays." While we try to keep our clients out of court on issues like that, sometimes we just cannot prevent the party or parties from simply needing to hear it from the person in the black robe. We are dealing with all of those people who are themselves dealing with a whole new world. Two houses, split timesharing of some sort, waiting for monthly support from their former spouse or soon-to-be EX. We are literally holding their hand at their most vulnerable time. So much at stake for so many. Of course, there are some marriages we predicted would result in divorce but there are others that come as a complete shock, to even the client, but as a family law attorney, what we manage at times is just down right overwhelming.

It's not just divorce cases. There are domestic violence, post-judgment cases and people who aren't married but have children and other issues taking up a huge percentage of the family courts' dockets. Not to mention all of those people navigating a divorce or other family law matter, pro se!

There have been plenty of times where I ask myself or I am asked, "WHY." Why do I do this line of work? How do I do it? But, the truth is that being a family lawyer is likely THE perfect fit for me. I have to be honest, pretty quickly you realize that with this practice comes a lot of drama and bickering and baggage that our clients bring with them into their cases. At times, I joke with my own clients that therapy would be less expensive and possibly covered by insurance!  It is true that we use our psychology skills as much as legal skills.  

I actually enjoy psychology (perhaps I should have gone that route), but I do have a problem with people spending their life savings and kids' college education fighting over trivial issues just so they can "win." What does it really mean to win in a divorce anyway? I digress...

It is difficult not to feel frustrated at times when you feel your clients aren't listening to you, taking your advice or when you feel you are not helping people in a positive way. But try and recall why it is you became a "family lawyer" and go back to that place. Remember how you ended up in this arena and what drew you to it. Unplug, disconnect for a few hours or even a few days (on occasion) and always wake up, get out of bed one foot at a time, bring that pep back in your step and get out there and make a difference, even if it just is for one family.  

The long-term effects of your hard work, dedication and commitment to have a positive impact on your client will in turn affect that person's loved ones.  Every once in a while, give your colleague (or opponent, even) a pat on the back or congratulate them on a job well done or even point out appreciation for their professionalism or courtesy as opposing counsel; it won't kill you and a little really does go a long way in this field.

Here's to a great May 2019 and Happy Monday, 
Abigail M. Beebe, West Palm Beach
2018-2019 Chair, Family Law Section of The Florida Bar
Renew Your Family Law Section Membership
The Florida Bar's 2019-20 annual fee season is open and you now are able to pay your dues online. Don't forget to include your Family Law Section dues so you can continue to enjoy the many great benefits the section offers!
  • Excellent monthly CLEs at discounted pricing for section members.
  • Leadership and statewide networking through our numerous committees and the Executive Council.
  • Publication opportunities in the quarterly Commentator magazine for scholarly articles related to family law.
  • Camaraderie and networking during the section's in-state, out-of-state and leadership retreats.
  • Numerous annual awards that recognize our members for exceptional pro bono and section service.
  • Mentoring and mentorship opportunities.
  • Invaluable contributions by the section and its Legislation Committee to protect Florida's families.
Renew today through your Florida Bar Member Portal!
Family Law Section member Eddie Stephens of Ward Damon is featured on the cover of The Florida Bar News. Eddie recently rappelled down a nine-story building in West Palm Beach to raise money for The Lord's Place, a provider of services for people experiencing homelessness. His team raised $5,000. Eddie also helped increase awareness about Florida Bar Board Certification by carrying the board certification flag with him during his stunt. Eddie is a past chair of the Marital and Family Law Certification Committee and is a strong supporter of board certification.
Family Law Section In-State Retreat
April 11 - 14, Ocean Reef Club, Key Largo
The Family Law Section's annual In-State Retreat was a huge success! Section Chair Abby Beebe and Retreat Chairs Heather Apicella, Trisha Armstrong and Michelle Klinger Smith created an amazing itinerary for the weekend that included a CLE seminar and numerous fun activities for the guests and their families. Here are some photos of our members in the fabulous Florida Keys!  View more photos on the section's Facebook page .

Special thank you to Shannon McLin Carlyle and her firm, Florida Appeals, for sponsoring the section's In-State Retreat. Shannon is a member of the Family Law Section Executive Council and chairs the section's Amicus Curiae Committee. She also serves as a member of the Publications, Ad Hoc Health and Wellness, and Rules and Forms committees.

Register NOW for The Florida Bar Annual Convention
Join your colleagues and friends at the 69th Annual Florida Bar Annual Convention June 26-29 at Boca Raton Resort and Club. Family Law Section committees and the Executive Council are meeting and the section is hosting its Annual Awards & Installation Luncheon. Annual Convention provides the ultimate environment to network with colleagues, judges and friends. There are many CLE opportunities, luncheons and special events including the Judicial Luncheon, All-Member Reception, alumni receptions and more! Register for the convention and reserve your spot at the FLS luncheon at this link.
Upcoming CLE Opportunities
2019 Legislative Update
May 9, 2019  Noon - 2 p.m.
Live Audio Webcast

Register now and join us on May 9 to hear the latest statutory updates and results from the 2019 legislative session. Family Law Section Legislation Committee co-chairs  Andrea Reid, Esq.,  Joseph Hunt, Esq. and  David Hirschberg, Esq. will discuss new laws, bills introduced but not passed, practice pointers in light of the results and more. Moderated by  Jennifer Miller-Morse, Esq.

Approved for 2.0 General, 2.0 Marital & Family Law CLE credits. Course 2959. Family Law Section members register for only $75. Sponsored by LawPay.
Paralegals Play Their Part: Skills Assisting Attorneys in a Happy and Healthy Family Law Practice
May 10, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. (Live and Webcast)
Doubletree Riverfront, Jacksonville

Magistrate K. Beth Luna , Esq. and Sarah R. Sullivan , Esq. are co-chairs for this one-day CLE event for family law attorneys and paralegals. Topics include effective intake and client management; preparation for mediations, hearings and trials; how to create a functional and favorable financial affidavit; client communication strategies; legal writing in tumultuous family litigation; ethical case management; the ethics of getting paid for legal work; case management; and how to ethically
engage, bill and conclude the attorney-client relationship. The event will be followed by a Family Law Section membership reception. 

Course 2942 Approved for 8.0 General, 1.0 Ethics, 1.0 Mental Illness CLE credits.

In-person Live Event
  • Family Law section member $215
  • Non-section member $270
  • Legal Aid, Government Attorney, Full-time Law College Faculty/Student $160
  • Fee waiver $50 (Requires discount code. Must meet qualifications. For more information, email
Live Webcast
  • Family Law section member $265
  • Non-section member $320
Only 80 spots available. In-person, live event.  Register online now

Make plans to attend the 2019 Trial Advocacy Workshop in July. Hone your trial skills as you prepare and present a family law case from beginning to end. Choose between a "Children's Issues" track or a "Financial Issues" track (preferences will be considered but are not guaranteed). Get details The Trial Advocacy Workshop always sells out, so take this opportunity to change the way you approach a contested family law proceeding and sharpen your trial tools. For those hoping to become board certified or recertified in Marital and Family Law, remember that completion of the Trial Advocacy Workshop counts toward your trial requirement. View event brochure .

Course No. 3186. General CLE: 29.5 hours; Ethics: 2.0 hours; Technology: 1.0 hours. Certification Program (max credit 29.5 hours): Marital and Family Law: 29.5 hours. Family Law Section members $940. Non-section members $995.
Stephens' Squibs by Eddie Stephens

Squib of the Month:

Laux v. Laux,  44 Fla.L.Weekly D635 (Fla. 4 th  DCA 2019). Provision in MSA that each party is responsible for their own attorney's fees does not waive right to seek fees in future enforcement actions.
John Foster of Family Complex Litigation & Collaborative Group loves surfing in Costa Rica and is active in promoting health and wellness. John is an Executive Council member and co-chairs the Health and Wellness Committee.
Healthy Selfies
William "Trace" Norvell of the Reid Law Group with his wife, Lauren Norvell, and their two-month-old daughter, Thea, at the Palm Beach County Bar Association 4th  Annual YLS "Run for Justice" 5k on March 30.

We encourage you to submit selfies for publication in the FAMSEG Health and Wellness Section. Email your photos to FAMSEG Editor Ron Kauffman.

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Four Time-Saving Hacks for a More Efficient Workday
Results from a recent Thomson Reuters study show that what separates the most profitable firms from their less profitable peers is not their rates, but the number of billable hours for which they actually charge. If you can increase substantive case management and decrease administrative busywork you ultimately will boost profitability and improve client relations. But how do you get there?

This great article explains four time-savers that can help you have a more efficient and effective workday.
Kim Rommel-Enright doing one of her favorite things (Disney) with some of her most favorite people: her two daughters and some of her theater "kids."

Who is someone who inspires you? No one in particular but I am constantly inspired by my clients who persevere daily in the face of adversity. 
How do you define success? Having a roof over my head, food on the table, and a sense that I am making the world a better place in some small way.
Why do you practice family law?  In general the type of cases that I handle are "feel good" cases. I started my career 20+ years ago representing children in the foster care system. From there I transitioned to representing individuals in our Ryan White (HIV/AIDS) unit in family law matters including permanency planning for parents and custody cases (where parents were involved in custody battles because of their status). Over the years I have handled adoptions, paternities, determination of beneficiaries (paternity after death basically)  and a variety of miscellaneous types of cases. Most recently my cases have centered on LGBTQ clients, specifically transgender and assisting them in name and gender marker changes. The vast majority of the cases I have handled and continue to handle have a positive impact on people's lives, I help create families and help people live their lives in a true and meaningful way. There is a satisfaction in helping people and that is why I practice the specific type of family law that I practice.
What is something few people know about you?  I am a first generation American (on my father's side), I was refused entrance into the Vatican and I have two cognitively disabled children.
Favorite quote? "First, think. Second, dream. Third, believe. And finally, dare." 
- Walt Disney
Favorite family law case?  Probably a contested adoption in which we represented the father who had been purposefully blocked from participating in the life of his soon to be born child who the mother wanted to put up for adoption. As soon as the mother went into labor, we went into action. I co-counseled the case with Andrea Reid who did an amazing job. We were successful in the end and the child actually ended up with the father in a stable and loving home.
Favorite book and why?  My favorite book has always been Gone with the Wind.I love the literary classics including Dracula, Tarzan, Little Women, Robin Hood and anything about King Arthur. I read Gone with the Wind when I was 15 and I fell in love with the characters and the story. I am a fan of epic/historical types of material. I also admired Scarlett's strengths and recognized her many weaknesses as well.
Favorite TV show and why? At the moment, Game of Thrones. I have been a huge fan for years. I love epic/historical/fantasy genres and GoT fits the bill. I love the characters and the storyline and it is very entertaining and well done. It's a nice escape. I also love Schitt's Creek because it's hysterical.
Favorite song lyric?  Anything written by Sting.
Favorite superhero?  A group called the Spotlighters. They are a performing group of mentally challenged young people who perform all over our county at many events. My daughter is part of the group and I think they are so brave and every time I watch them I feel like they are superheros.
Best place you have traveled?  My second home (literally) Greece - but I do love Paris.
Proudest accomplishment within the section?  When the ban on gay adoption was finally removed. We worked on that issue for many frustrating years. Also, I was proud when I finally became comfortable enough to voice my opinion and speak up in general.
What benefits do you receive as a result of your section participation?  The opportunity to collaborate with and learn from some of the most intelligent and knowledgeable  people in the practice and to have such a positive impact on the families in Florida through our legislative work.
Something we did not know about you?  I am the Artistic Director of a small regional nonprofit theater company, Maplewood Playhouse.
Coffee or tea?  Neither. Coke Zero.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items could you not live without? Items not people. See above: Coke Zero, books, my reading glasses.
The Family Law Section WANTS YOU to write for one of three publications: 
  • JournalTo be considered for publication in The Florida Bar Journal, the article should be scholarly and relate in some manner to family law. It should be 12-15 pages in length, complete with end notes. 
  • Commentator: The Family Law Section's glossy quarterly magazine. Articles could range from substantive articles to advice about lifestyle and wellness.
  • FAMSEG: Have an announcement? Pictures of a section event? FAMSEG is your place! Please contact Editor Ron Kauffman.
For more information about section publications, please contact Publications Committee Co-chairs Laura Davis Smith or Sonja Jean.
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