Professional and Ethical Practice


Last year, during my term last year as Chair of The Florida Bar Family Law Section, the section published an updated version of the ?Bounds of Advocacy,? a guide for Florida lawyers on the professional and ethical dilemmas that are unique to the practice of family law. The ?Bounds of Advocacy? draws on the sources that create our rules of professional conduct and views those rules through a family law perspective. It suggests a higher level of practice than the minimum baseline of conduct required by Florida Bar rules and spells out guidelines for situations that often arise in family law matters where the rules do not provide sufficient guidance.

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers published the original ?Bounds of Advocacy? in 1991 and revised it in 2002. In the same year, the Florida Bar Family Law Section formed a committee to adapt the guide to Florida law and practice, and the section published its original version of the ?Bounds of Advocacy Goals for Family Lawyers in Florida? in 2004. The 2018 version is the first revision and update to the 2004 Florida publication.

My experience with the publication, encouraged me to make the revision of the ?Bounds? a priority during my year as Chair. I started in private practice, in 2003, and shortly thereafter, I received a copy of the 2004 version. It was an incredible resource to me as a newer lawyer in the family law field, and I knew that I wanted to make the revision of the publication a primary goal of the section during the 2017-2018 bar year. To that end, I created the Family Law Section Ad Hoc Bounds of Advocacy Committee to update the guide to reflect recent and significant changes in marital and family law, as well as ethics, professionalism, social media and technology.
Family Law Section Ad Hoc Bounds of Advocacy Committee
Richard West, co-chair, Orlando Melinda Gamot, co-chair, Palm Beach Gardens Hon. Scott Bernstein, Miami Dr. Deborah Day, Winter Park Maria C. Gonzalez, Ft. Lauderdale Ky Koch, Clearwater David Manz, Marathon Hon. Ray McNeal, Ocala Ashley Myers, Jacksonville

I was honored that family law practitioners Richard West and Melinda Gamot accepted appointments to co-chair the Ad Hoc Bounds of Advocacy Committee as both were involved in the 2004 publication. Both are Florida Bar board certified in marital and family law and are fellows of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the International Academy of Family Lawyers. They, along with other experienced family law attorneys from throughout the state, current and retired judiciary members, and even a mental health expert, worked tirelessly to ensure the quality of the republished version.

The importance of the update of the ?Bounds? is highlighted by the public?s continued negative perception of our legal system and lawyers. The Florida Supreme Court and our bar have actively worked to improve public perception and lawyer behavior by promoting professionalism in the practice of law. In a 2013 opinion, the Florida Supreme Court enacted the code for resolving professionalism complaints and within the opinion, the Court made it clear that Florida Bar members shall not engage in unprofessional conduct, which they defined as substantial or repeated violations of the:

  1. Oath of Admission to the Florida Bar -?Link here
  2. Florida Bar Creed of Professionalism -?Link here
  3. Florida Bar Professionalism Expectations -?Link here
  4. The Rules Regulating the Florida Bar -?Link here
  5. Opinions of the Florida Supreme Court -?Link here

Section 1: Professional Cooperation and the Administration of Justice – This section emphasizes a family law attorney?s role as not only an advocate but as a counselor and an officer of the court. It demonstrates that we, as professionals, must not simply advocate for our clients, but that we must manage emotions, problem solve, and assist in doing our part to ensure the effectiveness of our judicial system.

Section 2: Competence and Advice – This section addresses that not only must we, of course, provide competent representation, but as part of our representation, we must advise clients of the impact of changing the family structure, the impact of conflict on the family, especially children, and we must advise clients of methods for resolving conflict and of alternatives to litigation.

Section 3: Client Relationship and Decision Making – This section recognizes that attorneys involved in a family law case, like every attorney, have obligations to their clients regarding diligence and communication. However, it reflects that these types of issues take on additional importance in family law cases where emotions run high and clients are sometimes unable to approach matters with the rationality needed to render appropriate decisions.

Section 4: Conflicts of Interest – This section highlights those situations within a family law matter where conflicts of interest often appear.

Section 5: Fees – This section establishes best practices and clear boundaries relating to attorney fees in family law cases.

Section 6: Children – Finally, this section addresses the family law lawyer?s unique role as it relates to children. It emphasizes, consistent with our obligations to our client, our role as a counselor who advises his or her client of the impact of contemplated actions on the children. It also highlights some of those areas where children?s interests are directly addressed within our law.

Richard West and Melinda Gamot shared their thoughts about the importance of the ?Bounds? to the practice of family law. Their quotes were published in the May 15, 2018, issue of The Florida Bar News.
?We hope family lawyers will use the Bounds to better serve our clients, our system of justice, and our individual practices by reducing the emotional and financial costs of family law conflicts,? said West. ?Adopting the spirit of the ?Bounds? will lead to increased cooperation while eliminating many of the negative aspects of restructuring a family. The committee is proud to present our vision to the family law bar.?
?The ?Bounds? is a tool for the family lawyer to increase the level of professionalism and civility in an area of law fraught with human emotions,? said Gamot. ?We strive to raise the level of positive behaviors for the lawyers and their clients.?

In closing, the Bounds presents helpful assistance to anyone handling a family matter. Although all Family Law Section members should have received a hard copy of the publication in June of 2018, an electronic version of the publication is available on the Family Law Section?s website for anyone to download. Click on this link for your free copy.
By?Nicole L. Goetz, P.L., Naples (Website)

Letter from the FLAFCC President

President's Letter – February 2019

On December 15, 2018 I began my term as President of the Florida Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. ?This was the official beginning of what I hope and expect to be a highly positive, eventful year. FLAFCC has always been a leader and an innovator in providing guidance, setting standards, and in paving the way for growth, development and change in all areas of Family Law.

Looking back over the past year, Debra Weaver, PhD, our immediate past President, led us on a fantastic journey that provided us with our highly successful conference (chaired by Sheba Katz), as well as progress on the Eldercaring Coordination project and other programs. ?I, and hopefully all of you, thank her for her hard work and dedication to FLAFCC and what it stands for. We also have a hard working and innovative Board of Directors who volunteer their time to forward the FLAFCC mission. These Board members are very approachable, and I invite all of you to reach out to them and discuss how to get involved.

Over the next year we have a lot of important work planned. ?Our 15th annual conference, whose theme and title is ?Miles To Go: ?Moving Families Forward? is currently in the planning stage with the call for presenters having just gone out. ?Last year?s conference was a great success with the highest number of registrants of any of our conferences. We are going to continue to offer pre conference tracks in Mental Health, Legal, and Financial areas. ?The conference will offer workshops provided by top rated, cutting edge professionals. Continuing education credits will be provided for all professions including Mediators.

In addition to our ongoing efforts related to Parenting Coordination and Social Investigation, FLAFCC will continue to concentrate on Eldercaring Coordination. ?In December we created an Eldercaring Coordination standing committee to further this national and international initiative. During 2019 we will also be looking at the Intake Review process for Florida Family Courts. This project aims to revise the family court intake process to better serve families who are just entering the family law arena and may not have professional help to rely on for guidance. ?We will be updating our website and media material and strengthening our social media presence. This will also make our organization more visible. Each one of these areas is being spearheaded by past and current Board members; please contact me or another board member if you have interest in helping with these projects.

All of us at FLAFCC are looking forward to 2019 being a highly productive year as we facilitate, develop and enhance Family Law programs to benefit the people of Florida. ?Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve this group. I look forward to working with this fantastic Board and you, all the members of FLAFCC.

Craig Fabrikant, PhD

Letter from the FLAFCC President

Farewell from your 2018 President?Debra Weaver:

My term as president came to a close on December 15 at the annual membership meeting and Board of Directors meeting. ?I want to thank you all for your support throughout the year. It has truly been an honor and a privilege to be the president of such a prestigious organization. ?I had a wonderful Board to work with and look forward to this year, serving as Immediate Past President and conference co-chair.

2018 was a memorable year for FLAFCC?some of our highlights this past year include:

  1. Annual conference. ?This year?s theme??Open Minds: Diverse Services for Diverse Families? captured what we do every day. ?FLAFCC again partnered with OSCA to put on an excellent conference, meeting the mutual needs of both groups. ?FLAFCC has always been forward-thinking– seeking best practices, forwarding research and legislation, to improve the family law experience for FL residents and to provide state-of-the-art research information and best-practice models for our membership.
    Pre-conference tracks. ?We introduced half-day tracks focused on meeting continuing education needs of the various disciplines represented in our membership. ?These tracks were very well attended, received very positive feedback, and generated income for our organization. The success of these tracks will ensure their presence in future conferences.
    Conference content?the conference provided a wide variety of content with the aim of providing information that is directly applicable in the attendee?s profession. ?There were also a significant number of first-time presenters. As a result, information was on cutting-edge topics, providing up-to-date information, and new perspectives. ?There were also a number of return presenters with up-to-date information on a variety of relevant topics. It was nice to hear attendees complaining that they could not attend all of the workshops they wanted to!!!
    Attendance-the 2018 conference was very well attended exceeding previous conferences. ?It was great to see familiar faces and add to our membership. The conference also generated additional income for FLAFCC, making future conferences possible.
  2. FLAFCC Sponsored Initiatives. FLAFCC and a number of its members have been instrumental in advancing best practice models and new legislation. ?Two current initiatives are in full swing.
    Eldercaring Coordination (EC) has continued to grow and increase awareness of EC throughout 2018 under the leadership of the Honorable Michelle Morley and Linda Fieldstone. ?Here are a few of EC?s highlights: 1. EC received a grant from the American Arbitration Association to recruit new pilot sites, for training new coordinators, and to develop video education. 2. ?Staywell/Well Care (the largest Medicare/Medicaid Health Care provider in FL contributed grant funds designed to assist their families with financial needs in accessing these vital services. 3. EC has established themselves as, not only a statewide initiative, but a national and international one as well. ?OH and ID are rolling our EC sites throughout their states; CA, MD, and Toronto are all pending Pilot Sites. 4. Internationally, EC was highlighted at the International Symposium on ?Innovations with Children and Families? in Montreal, at the United Nations at the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, and made presentation and conducted a workshop at the International Federation on Ageing Global Conference in Toronto. ??5. The ABA Commission of Law and Aging published a new legislative fact sheet that included EC as an option for families in discord. 6. The ABA National Conference on Aging and the Law featured plenary session on EC in coordination with researchers from Va. Tech. and 7. The Australian Mediation Conference in including a workshop on EC in their April 2019 conference.
    Congratulations to EC for outstanding accomplishments last year!!

The Family Law Intake Revision Project is underway. ?This initiative is led by the Honorable Sandra Karlan, (ret) and Robert Merlin, JD. ?They had hoped for a kick-off at the 2017 conference, but hurricane Maria caused that conference to be cancelled. ?So, they continued work and had their kick-off at the 2018 conference! With the approval and support of the FL Supreme Court Committee on Children and Families in the Court and in compliance with recommendations in the FL Supreme Court?s Model Family Court opinion (2001), FLAFCC created a Task Force on Family Court Intake. ?The mission of this task force is to create ?an intake process to provide information, make referrals to legal or social services, and assist self-represented litigants, with services available whether or not the person files a lawsuit and without regard to income.? The co-chairs have assembled various stakeholders to consider the necessary elements to create an updated intake system for families that could be implemented throughout FL.

In closing, FLAFCC has had a memorable 2018, but there is plenty to look forward to in 2019. ?Join me, as I say farewell, in wishing our new president, Craig Fabrikant, and our Board of Directors a productive and successful 2019.



At our annual meeting at the Florida Hotel and Conference Center, Orlando, the current board and all interested members in attendance will vote on new board members and the 2019 officer slate.? New board member nominees include: Amy Hamlin, J.D., Altamonte Springs, FL ; Philip Wartenberg, J.D., Tampa, FL; Rebecca Amster, J.D., PsyD, Miami, FL and Josh Shilts, CPA, Jacksonville, FL.? Additionally, Wilhelmina Tribble and Pam Schneider are being nominated for a second term.

The proposed officer slate for 2019 is:

Past President ? Deb Weaver

President ? Craig Fabrikant

President Elect ? Mary Lou Wagstaff

Vice President ? Sheba Katz

Treasurer ? Josh Shilts

Secretary ? Lisette Beraja.


High Risk Indicators for Intimate Partner Homicide

by?Shena Kitt, InVEST Program Coordinator? and Cynthia Rubenstein, MS, LMHC, CCR Specialist Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Navigating criminal justice, legal and social services systems can be a daunting task for survivors of intimate partner violence. However, certified domestic violence centers, social service providers, and legal, criminal justice and other allied community partners can assist survivors in finding safety and justice through the implementation of proactive strategies that hold perpetrators accountable for their violence. A coordinated community response, such as the Intimate Partner Violence Services Team (InVEST), emphasizes perpetrator responsibility through enhanced criminal justice response and increased support services available to survivors.

InVEST began in Jacksonville, Florida, as a partnership between the local certified domestic violence center, Hubbard House, Jacksonville Sheriff?s Office and the City of Jacksonville. Between 2006 and 2009, the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Office of the Attorney General identified 11 Florida counties with the highest rates of domestic violence homicide to provide funding for the expansion of InVEST in those communities. Since that time, InVEST partnerships have implemented batterer accountability measures and provided enhanced advocacy for more than 3,000 survivors per year who are identified at high risk of being murdered by their intimate partner. Since the program?s inception, there have not been any homicides of InVEST participants. This is particularly notable since InVEST participants enter the program based on their experience of evidence-based, high risk behaviors perpetrated against them by their partner or ex-partner.

Despite programs such as InVEST, domestic violence homicides continue to occur in alarming numbers in Florida. The Annual Uniform Crime Report (UCR) statistics released in May 2018 by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) reflected a 9.5 percent decrease in domestic violence murders in 2017 from the previous year. However, domestic violence manslaughter deaths increased by 28.6 percent during the same time period. There were a total of 180 domestic violence-related homicides in Florida in 2017.1

It is essential that communities engaged in the work to end domestic violence are familiar with batterer behaviors that have been identified as high-risk indicators for the escalation of violence and lethality. Examples of these indicators include:2

  • Perpetrator has a prior history of domestic violence
  • Perpetrator controls all/most of their partner?s daily activities
  • Perpetrator exhibits extreme and/or violent jealousy toward their partner
  • Perpetrator attempts to strangle their partner
  • Perpetrator is stalking, making threats, destroying partner?s property
  • Perpetrator owns a firearm or has access to weapons

2 Campbell, J. C., Webster, D., Koziol-McLain, J., Block, C., Campbell, D., Curry, M. A., Laughon, K. (2003). Risk Factors for Femicide in Abusive Relationships: Results From a Multisite Case Control Study. American Journal of Public Health, 93(7), 1089?1097.

  • Perpetrator has sexually assaulted their partner or forced sex in the past
  • Perpetrator is living in a home with their partner?s children who have a biological parent other than the perpetrator

Survivors are often the most aware of the danger the perpetrator presents to their safety. They experience the threats and violence first hand and understand the perpetrator?s capacity for escalation. Survivors who express that their partner will kill them need to be believed and validated. The fear of ongoing violence and death often contributes to why survivors stay in the abusive relationship.

A perpetrator?s violence does not simply end when the survivor leaves the relationship, but is instead likely to escalate.3 Leaving or preparing to leave the relationship can be most dangerous time for a survivor of intimate partner violence. A survivor may only leave when she believes the circumstances are safe to do so or because she believes she will be killed if she stays. Additionally, survivors often stay to protect their children since abusive partners are frequently granted joint custody of children in common when the couple separates. When this occurs, children may be at an increased risk of harm since they spend time with the perpetrator without the survivor there to protect them.

Florida?s 42 certified domestic violence centers provide free and confidential services to survivors of domestic violence, including supportive counseling, advocacy, emergency shelter, access to a 24-hour crisis hotline, safety planning, information, and referrals. The Florida Domestic Violence Hotline connects survivors, their friends, family members and community partners to the certified domestic violence centers in their area. The Florida Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at 1-800-500-1119 (TDD 1-800-622-4202/ Florida Relay 711). In addition, attorneys are available on the Florida Legal Hotline to answer survivors? legal questions regarding injunctions for protection, divorce, custody, housing, immigration and other legal matters at no cost. The Legal Hotline may be reached through prompt three on the statewide hotline. Interpreter services are available for survivors with limited English proficiency on both hotlines.

Please visit or contact for additional information on high- risk indicators, or to request training for your organization.

3?United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Crime Victimization Survey, 2015.