Well, happy new “Bar Year” from Palm Beach, Florida! As Chair of the Family Law Section of The Florida Bar for 2018-2019, I am very excited to kick off this New Bar Year by letting you know what has been happening, and what’s in store for the Section this year!
First, we had a productive and exciting year under Nicole Goetz’s noteworthy leadership. At our Annual Luncheon held during The Florida Bar Annual Convention, Nicole recognized those individuals who really helped make her year great. Just to hit a few of the highlights:
Nicole honored the following members for their “Above and Beyond Service,” for exceeding all expectations with their tireless dedication and hard work to benefit the Section in 2017-18: Aimee Gross, Diane M. Kirigin, Carin Porras and Bonnie Sockel-Stone.
In each year, the Chair acknowledges a few “Rising Stars” for recognition of their enthusiasm, initiative and outstanding service to the Family Law Section and its goals. This year, Nicole selected Trish Armstrong, Stephanie Matalon, Ryan Tarnow and Anya Citron-Stern.
The following members and officers of the Section were also awarded for their invaluable contributions and time spent protecting Florida’s Families during the 2018 Legislative Session: John Foster, Aimee Gross, Amy Hickman, Kristen Kirkner, Kristi Beth Luna, Bonnie Sockel-Stone, David Manz, Shannon Novey, Michelle Klinger-Smith and Phil Warternberg.
Our Section was lucky enough to have the support of Senator Kathleen Passidomo and Representative Daniel Perez to ensure that the Section’s Equitable Distribution bill successfully became law in 2018.
Also, the Underage Marriage bill was fully backed and supported by Representatives Jeanette Nunez and Frank White along with Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto. Thank you all for your unwavering support of the Family Law Section’s mission and goal in ensuring the laws of our state and Florida’s families are best served and legally protected. Thank you to our wonderful team at Southern Strategies — Nelson Diaz, Edgar Castro and Kevin Cabrera — for your hard work, dedication and assistance in this legislative session.
The Chair’s Award of Extraordinary Service was given to the Section’s very own, well-deserving member Sarah E. Kay. The Chair’s Award of Special Merit was given to Sheena Benjamin-Wise, Ronald Bornstein, Belinda Lazzara, Matthew Lundy, Michelle Klinger-Smith, Phil Wartenberg and C. Deb Welch.
Nicole recognized Sarah R. Sullivan with The Alberto Romero “Making a Difference” Award at the annual luncheon for her tireless efforts for the benefit of the Section and The Florida Bar.
The Honorable Raymond T. McNeal Professionalism Award was given to Past Section Chair Maria C. Gonzalez for her never-ending, forever and absolute professionalism in all walks of her life, including personally and professionally.
Spotlight Awards were given to the following Section members for their positive impact and outstanding service to the Section: Heather Apicella, John Foster, Tenesia Hall, David Hirschberg, Ronald Kauffman, Chris Rumbold, Robin Scher and Eddie Stephens, III.
Nicole recognized Lisa Tipton, our Communications Consultant, and Gabrielle Tollok, our Section Administrator, for their tireless support and continued efforts to assist our Section in accomplishing all of our goals.
Under Nicole’s lead, our very own “Bounds of Advocacy” were re-written to bring them more current with our ever-changing world. Championing this effort, our Section was lucky to have Co-chairs Richard West, Past Chair, and Melinda Gamot; along with their Ad Hoc Committee including: the Honorable Scott Bernstein; Dr. Deborah Day; Maria C. Gonzalez; Ky Koch, Past Chair; David Manz, Past Chair; the Honorable Raymond McNeal; and Ashley Myers. The committee was tasked with and accomplished this goal seamlessly. The actual print version was mailed to all members just after the convention, and should have been received as of the writing of this message.
We also elected and welcomed our new Executive Committee members, Chair Abigail Beebe, Chair-Elect Amy Hamlin, Treasurer Douglas Greenbaum, Secretary Heather Apicella, and of course, Immediate Past Chair Nicole Goetz.
During the luncheon, Lawrence Datz recognized those attorneys who have become newly board certified by The Florida Bar in the area of Marital & Family Law: Jordan Abramowitz, Christopher Russell Bruce, Matthew Paul Irwin, Catherine Magdalena Rodriguez, Katherine Cooper Scott, Michelle Klinger Smith and John Stephen Thacker. Congratulations! Former Section Chairs Thomas Sasser and Jorge Cestero administered the oath as we swore in our newest Executive Council members: Lauren Alperstein, Shannon McLin Carlyle, Reuben Doupé, Anastasia Garcia, Andrea Reid, Kimberly Rommel-Enright, Robin Scher, C. Debra Welch and Maxine Williams .
I want to welcome each and every one of you to a new Bar Year. This year, we have some incredible things planned. First, our bi-annual leadership retreat will be at the Colony Hotel in Palm Beach, which will be in conjunction with the Section’s Fall Meetings. In October, Section members will put on their cowboy boots, cowboy hats and head to Nashville, Tennessee, for our Out-of-State Retreat. In Nashville, we will stay at the Thompson Hotel, and the renowned Chris Mercer of Mercer Capital will bring us up to speed on the leading issues in the world of Business Valuations.
In January, partnering with the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Florida Chapter, our Annual Certification & Review Course will take place at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando, Florida. This year the speakers are stellar, and this lineup is not to be missed. As in years past, our Section’s Mid-Year Meetings will occur after the seminar.
In April, our Section is lucky enough to host our In-State Retreat at the private, exclusive and absolutely beautiful Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo. This is sure to be one amazing experience for all.
Our Legislation Committee, along with the Executive Council and the entire section, are gearing up for what seems to be a busy legislative session ahead. We are teeing up to persevere through a busy legislative agenda. 2018 is also a Constitutional Revision year, which occurs only every twenty (20) years; the last one in 1998. We want to educate our members, and the citizens of Florida, to vote with as much knowledge and information as we can possibly provide.
It is a privilege and honor to be named Chair of this Section. At the Section’s Awards & Installation Luncheon held on June 13, 2018, I spoke about my goals, “my theme,” and gave some of my thoughts about leadership within the Family Law Section.
For me, what this organization and volunteer work is all about, as well as my goal since I began this journey, was to try and help those involved, recall why they became involved. It is our hard work and tireless efforts to ensure the families in this state are best served in every way.
So here’s to a great year — 2018-19. Let this year be the year where we all make our mark, have an impact.
Abigail M. Beebe, West Palm Beach
2018-2019 Chair, Family Law Section of The Florida Bar