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 11 HIGHLIGHTS
Highlights of new material in this edition of Florida Family Law and Practice include:
- The Florida Supreme Court implements standalone Family Law Rules of Procedure, effective March 16, 2017. With a few exceptions, the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure no longer apply in family law cases.
- Effective July 1, 2017, the Florida Supreme Court adopts Rule Regulating the Florida Bar 4-1.9 and Florida Family Law Rule of Procedure 12.745 both addressing the Collaborative Law Process.
- A California home, transferred by a husband and wife before dissolution to a revocable trust with wife as sole trustee was not marital property subject to equitable distribution.
- The standard for reviewing a trial court’s determination of whether property was an interspousal gift subject to equitable distribution is competent, substantial evidence.
- The Fourth DCA refuses to recognize a former wife’s tort claim that her former husband’s employer engaged in fraudulent conduct after the final judgment of dissolution that falsely depressed the former husband’s income to limit his child support obligation.
- Father’s complaint against health care providers alleging battery and intentional interference with parent-child relationship was properly dismissed; health care providers may render medical care on one parent’s consent.
- District courts of appeal conflict concerning whether the results of a DNA test fulfill the requirement of “newly discovered evidence” for purposes of disestablishing paternity.
- A Florida court was required to enforce a Colorado order regarding grandparents’ visitation even though entry of a similar order by a Florida court would be prohibited by the Florida Constitution.
- The Florida Supreme Court declines to adopt the “Daubert amendment” to section 90.702, Florida Statutes, due to constitutional concerns that must be addressed in the context of a proper case or controversy.
- Wife’s pro se reply to husband’s petition for dissolution of marriage constituted both an answer and a counter-petition.
- Preparing and attaching child support guidelines to a child support agreement is no longer optional; the parties cannot waive the requirement.
- Trial court rendered a child support modification order when it filed the order with the clerk of court, not when it signed the order one week earlier, so as to trigger the 10-day period for the Department of Revenue (DOR) to file a motion to vacate the Hearing Officer’s recommended order.
- The trial court erred in awarding wife no portion of husband’s pension based on its de minimis value; over course of ten years, payout of marital portion of pension would have been roughly $21,600.
- A law firm was entitled to a charging lien against marital assets awarded to husband where the firm and husband had a written agreement providing for the lien, even though husband would have been entitled to a share of marital assets without the law firm’s representation.
- Attorneys’ fees may not be awarded against the new spouse of a former spouse.
- District courts of appeal conflict over whether the trial court has authority to award attorney’s fees pursuant to section 57.105, Florida Statutes, in a domestic violence proceeding.
- Receding from its prior opinion, the Fourth DCA granted the father attorney’s fees in a paternity action pursuant to section 742.045, Florida Statutes conditioned on a showing of need and ability to pay on remand to the trial court.
- Former wife could not be ordered to pay former husband’s fees and costs simply because she refused to settle the case.
- Bank records mandatorily disclosed under Family Law Rules of Procedure must still be admitted into evidence. Disclosed items are not per se admissible.
ABBREVIATED TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER 1 THERAPEUTIC JURISPRUDENCE NEW ROLES FOR LAWYER, JUDGE AND CLIENT
CHAPTER 2 OFFICE MANAGEMENT AND CASE PREPARATION
CHAPTER 3 SCREENING AND TAKING THE CASE
CHAPTER 4 PRESUIT INVESTIGATION AND PROCEDURES
CHAPTER 5 FAMILY LAW PROCEEDINGS AND GROUNDS
CHAPTER 6 JURISDICTION AND VENUE
CHAPTER 7 SUMMONS, SERVICE OF PROCESS, AND E-MAIL SERVICE
CHAPTER 8 PLEADINGS AND MANDATORY ELECTRONIC FILING
CHAPTER 9 EMERGENCIES AND CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE
CHAPTER 10 DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
CHAPTER 11 DEFAULTS AND UNCONTESTED HEARINGS
CHAPTER 12 DISCOVERY AND USE OF EXPERTS
CHAPTER 13 TEMPORARY RELIEF
CHAPTER 14 PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY
CHAPTER 15 EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION AND PROPERTY ISSUES
CHAPTER 16 ALIMONY AND SUPPORT
CHAPTER 17 ATTORNEYS’ FEES AND COSTS
CHAPTER 18 ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION AND SETTLEMENT
CHAPTER 19 TRIAL AND EVIDENCE
CHAPTER 20 FINAL JUDGMENT; REHEARING; MOTIONS RELATED TO JUDGMENT
CHAPTER 21 ENFORCEMENT OF ORDERS AND JUDGMENTS
CHAPTER 22 PATERNITY AND PARENTING BY UNMARRIED PARENTS
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Randi Glick Boven has been a General Magistrate in Fort Lauderdale, Florida since 2009 hearing cases in both the family law and dependency divisions. Magistrate Boven has written and lectured extensively on family law for the Florida Bar Family Law Section and the Broward County Bar and other similar agencies. She also teaches at Florida Judicial College’s annual training for new Judges and General Magistrates.
General Magistrate Boven chaired and put in place the Evidence Based Parenting committee resulting in a higher level of service for parents and children. She also chaired the Broward County Early Childhood Court Initiative creating a new division within the Dependency Division serving parents and children under the age of five by providing specialized services and court hearings. The new division was created to provide parents with techniques to reduce removals of children from their parents.
She is a Florida Bar certified marital and family lawyer; a Florida Supreme Court certified family mediator; and has served as an adjunct professor of paralegal studies at Broward College. She is a cum laude graduate of Nova Southeastern University Law School. Before becoming a Magistrate, Ms. Boven was a sole practitioner in Broward county focusing exclusively on family law cases.
Annette J. Szorosy has been a General Magistrate in the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court, Broward County, since October 2011 handling cases in the family law divisions. Magistrate Szorosy has been a member of The Florida Bar since 1993. She has co-authored articles and lecture materials on family law topics with co-author, Randi Glick Boven.
She began her career at Heart of Florida Legal Aid Society handling family law matters for indigent Polk County residents. Thereafter, she worked as an associate at Carlton & Carlton, PA, handling family law matters and contested Department of Revenue circuit matters and appeals for DOR in the Fifth and Second District Courts of Appeal.
Magistrate Szorosy served as a Staff Attorney for the Tenth Judicial Circuit Court, and a Senior Staff Attorney and Career Staff Attorney at the Second and Fourth District Courts of Appeal. She was an associate attorney with Weiss, Handler and Cornwell handling construction defect litigation, class action civil litigation and condominium and family law appeals. In 2009, Ms. Szorosy came to work for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit as a Staff Attorney in the circuit civil and appellate divisions in Broward County until her appointment as a General Magistrate.
Magistrate Szorosy earned her B.S. in Criminology, magna cum laude, from Florida State University and her Juris Doctor, with honors, from Florida State University College of Law. She dedicates her efforts on this book over the last year to her dad, Gene (11/14/1942 – 8/3/2016).
Judge Renee Goldenberg, a circuit judge in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, received the 2010 Jurist of the Year Award “for the most outstanding contribution to the field of matrimonial law by a member of the judiciary” from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Florida Chapter. In 2001 she received the Outstanding Jurist Award from the Young Lawyers Division of the Florida Bar, given to the judge “with the finest credentials, finest demeanor, finest commitment to justice and the finest respect for young lawyers practicing in the State of Florida.” Judge Goldenberg also received the 2014 Nova Southeastern University Law Center Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award, which “is given to an alumnus or alumna who exhibits ‘NSU’s core values’ and ‘has an outstanding and notable record of distinction, success, accomplishment, leadership and service in his/her profession or community.’”
Judge Goldenberg is Chair of the Family Division in Broward County, Florida, and Past Chair of the Family Law Committee of the Florida Conference of Circuit Judges, and she serves on the Executive Committee of the Conference. She served on the faculty of the Florida Judicial College as team leader of education of family division judges. Judge Goldenberg served as a member of the State Commission on Family Courts, which recommended the institution of family divisions in the State of Florida, and the State Commission on Child Support Enforcement, which developed the preliminary draft of the child support guidelines in the state.
Judge Goldenberg was Chair of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar in 1995-6, and has written and lectured extensively on family law. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Florida Chapter; a Florida Bar certified marital and family lawyer; a Florida Supreme Court certified family mediator; and has received Martindale-Hubbell’s AV rating. She has served as an adjunct professor of law at Nova-Southeastern University, from which she graduated summa cum laude in 1984, and where she served as Executive Editor of Law Review. Judge Goldenberg is married to Stephen F. Goldenberg, Esq., a Florida Bar board certified tax lawyer. She and Stephen Goldenberg have three children and four grandchildren.