Efficient, Effective Settlements and Trials
Judge Renee Goldenberg, a master of systems organization and management, has written a procedural toolbook to address the challenges now facing Florida family lawyers. Her 1,200-page book takes you step-by-step through:
- Screening cases
- Temporary relief
- Property issues
- Child support
- Attorneys’ fees
Loaded with Tips and Techniques
As a Circuit Judge in Broward County’s Family Division, Renee Goldenberg deals with over 4,000 dissolutions a year. That experience, coming after 12 years as a family lawyer, means she has lots of helpful advice for practitioners. Here are 18 tips from just a few of the book’s 21 chapters:
- “Family lawyers seem to receive a disproportionate number of the grievances filed. Volunteer to be a member of a grievance committee. You will learn more than in any seminar and be better prepared to protect yourself and practice with professionalism.” §2:417
- “You may be surprised at the consequences of a frank discussion with a prospective client you rank low. In addition to agreeing to pay anything you ask, the prospective client may agree to do anything and everything you advise to have you represent him or her. This happens more than you may imagine. Some people seem to place a great value on what they cannot have.” §3:73
- “Ask the client to think a moment and come up with the top five things the client must have, and why. This assists in focusing the client on interests, rather than positions. Write down the client’s answer, and the client’s demeanor and tone of voice while he or she is responding. You now have two lists: what the client wants (the wish list) and what the client must have (the bottom line).” §3:117
- “Repeat the exercise, concentrating on the spouse’s perspective. This also provides an opportunity to minimize hostilities and potential conflict. Focus on the principles in common on both lists; what both parties agree to, for example, the importance of the children and their well-being. Remain silent, and wait for a response. Focus on simple compromises to create a win-win, how both can get what they want.” §3:117
- “There is a procedure that has good success in neutralizing the bomber lawyer. Shortly after learning the lawyer’s identity….” §4:64
- “Family court judges expect that family lawyers know the detrimental consequences to the family by proceeding to such an evidentiary hearing and that it will be a last resort. The better practice is to….” §5:32
- “The family court judge will have the factors in front of him and her and it is easier to follow the flow of the testimony and evidence if it follows the statutes. When questioning the parents or any other witnesses, ask the questions in that order. When entering exhibits into evidence, enter them in that order.” §9:223
- “If the allegations are going to be terrible, anticipate this possible outcome, and bring a grandparent or relative, not as a witness, but someone who is willing and able to take the children temporarily. Have the person wait outside and if the court reflects that this may be the direction the court is being forced to take, offer that person for an open court interview for temporary placement rather than a D.C.F. shelter.” §9:249
- “Care givers, teachers, day care workers, and similar independent witnesses who care for the child and see the child for hours each day are excellent witnesses, but may not have personal knowledge of the events in question so may not be relevant witnesses in the hearing. However, if the child is exhibiting trauma in their care, requiring immediate and emergency intervention by the court to provide for the child’s safety and protection, they may be relevant witnesses.” §9:282
- “For a financial affidavit listing that is glaringly out of the ordinary, use footnotes if the information is not lengthy and endnotes if the information is lengthy. Footnotes or endnotes answer the question and lend greater credibility to the financial affidavit. Gone are the days of puffing, putting double the expenses and expecting the court to grant needs of half.” §12:26
- “The case is a problem from the court’s perspective upon the beginning of volume two. When any dissolution of marriage case requires a second file, then things are happening that should not happen, unless the lawyers are unnecessarily filing discovery documents instead of just the response to request to production and mandatory disclosure instead of just the certificate of compliance with mandatory disclosure.” §12:97
- “Take photographs of how the documents appeared when they were delivered to you. A picture may show the judge the disorganization and need for extra expenditure of fees and costs necessary to put the documents in a condition to even make a rough inventory. When through, take pictures of the indexed, tabbed, and organized folders in neat and organized labeled boxes.” §19:85
- “Allowing the client to see the judge in action is important. Have the client make eye contact. Watch the client for behavior and mannerisms while in the chambers. If the client crosses his or her arms across the chest while just observing, note how much training the client will need before actual testimony.” §19:104
- “Have a plan and a trial outline. It is unnerving to the family court judge who is asked to allow re-cross and re-redirect because of poor preparation. The family court judge has an outline in the statutes and case law presumptions, burdens, factors, and mandatory findings. Work from the same outline and create a plan. Family court judges can immediately tell if the lawyer is prepared.” §19:02
- “Keep openings and closings brief and to the point. The shadow file helps in the organization and presentation. Often, lawyers just argue rather than provide the outline of what the party wants and why the testimony and facts presented will entitle the party to that relief. Present the burdens, presumptions, and factors. List and outline what will require specific findings. Charts and indexes help. Summaries help. Judges pay closer attention to opening and closing argument than the lawyer realizes.” §19:19
- “Family lawyers commonly want to use charts and other demonstrative aids and do not know how to get them into evidence. The foundation for admitting demonstrative evidence is….” §19:156
- “Do not just enter the original deposition into evidence and hand the deposition to the family court judge. Have three copies with numbered tabs and highlighted to specifically direct the court to only the substantial competent evidence to enter the sought award if you do want an immediate ruling. With the volume in family court, if you do not make the substantial competent evidence glaring and easy to give the court confidence in an ability to make an immediate decision, you may wait weeks or months for a ruling.” §19:159
- “A common mistake made by family lawyers is to allow an incomplete answer or evasive answer without committing the witness to an answer. Do not abandon the question and go on to something else. The family lawyer should be persistent in repeating the question, and if the witness continues not to answer, ask the court to require the witness to answer. Another technique is….” §19:272
REVISION 10 HIGHLIGHTS
Highlights of new material in this edition of Florida Family Law and Practice include:
- A lawyer’s significant ethical responsibilities regarding non-lawyer
- Guidance from the Florida Bar on when a lawyer may advise a client to remove material from social media websites.
- A child may record a conversation with another person to capture the person’s statements about sexual or violent acts committed or threatened against the child.
- Grandparents and great grandparents may petition for visitation with a minor child under certain limited circumstances including when the child’s parents are deceased or missing.
- Requirements for constructive service of process in cases involving parental responsibility, custody, or time-sharing, and service of process on the legal father in any case or proceeding to establish paternity that would result in termination of the legal father’s parental rights.
- Criminal and civil remedies provided for sexual cyberharassment, i.e., publication of sexually-explicit images of a person on the Internet without his or her consent.
- Requirements and process for appointment of social investigators and additional rules for social investigations.
- Conflict between district courts on whether any relocating parent or only the majority timesharing parent is required to file a relocation petition.
- More than 100 new case summaries.