What the Florida Bar’s Family Law Section Discussed – and What it Didn’t

April 7, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

A friend of NPO offered this slightly edited commentary on the documents of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar. I consider them quite accurate and to the point. They are, in my opinion a telling condemnation, not only of the opposition to shared parenting in Florida, but throughout the English-speaking world. The writer preferred to remain anonymous, but was gracious enough to allow the following to appear on the NPO website. (All typos are in the original minutes.)

It’s not just what the Bar is discussing that is noteworthy, but also what they’re not discussing. In 100 pages there was not a single mention by the Florida Bar (or Family Law Section) about what mental health or child development experts have found is best for children whose families have experienced divorce. There is not a single mention that Shared parenting is best for children; has the endorsement of 110 world experts and 43 peer reviewed papers, and is favored by 70% of the Population.

However, in the minutes of their meetings, The Bar was discussing:

1) How favorable the Legislature would be for the Bar next year as opposed to this year:

"[Lobbyist] Nelson [Diaz] says rumors are [Senator] Lee is not coming back and [Representative] Workman will not be in the same position. We are looking at a new legislative landscape and potentially a better landscape for us." (page 93)

2) Doing favors for friends who have supported the Bar Association

[FLS member] Terry Fogel asked why are we proposing language or modifying the parenting statute. [FLS Chair] Maria [Gonzalez] replied that we have 4 senators that have opposed the bill and very much made aware that [Senator] Stargell has reached out to us and FLS for some language. They understand that we oppose it and our standing positions. The purpose of the compromise language is to support those who have supported the FLS. Our lobbyists next year, ie adoption, POA, how can we expect those people who supported us not support them. Terry Fogel wants to know what it is that is being missed by amending our parenting bill. Diane Kirigin responded and clarified that Maira is asking us to put forth some language for allies of us, to propose to Atargell, but you may not like the language, but we have at least tried. Kept our promise. Danger we run, if we suggest language that is not aspirational, but creates in anyway a presumption which if adopted and used, if powers that be do a short run around, Workman. Maria G. assumes that we this body would not propose language that would violate our standing positions, but would be fine with us. We want to keep them happy and helping us down the road. It is also a strnegtheing of our already existing public policy of the state. Clarification for judges. Thomas Duggar- Workman is backing off his ability to put off any language in the house. Maria replied that pressure is on. Lee controls quite a bit of $ in upcoming in replbican election and re-district. Workman is seeking a Senate spot, Lee controls $. Recommends that we water down what Lee is trying to get. Chris Rumbold- abby and Rueben representation on last call, Stargell immobile on her language in bill. How likely is it that Lee could go to speaker of house and have a bill pass that is against Workman’s bill. Thomas Duggar said it is highly likely giuven other considerations of Tally at this time. (page 83-84)

3) That the Bar lost control when their language became public.

Nelson reports that Workman is telling people members of the Section approve the language that was added on. Chris is concerned that we debated language in a Committee meeting (in Legislation and Executive Council), voted it down, and yet it made its way to Tallahassee. Maria points out that unfortunately, when we email language out to 37-40 members, and debate it, we lose control of it. And it is sad our language got out to the public. (Page 89)

4) Talk about Representative Workman going back on his word

Alimony Bill in Senate got amended and 50/50 timesharing presumption was added on. It is on final reading in Senate. It is expected to pass out of the Senate. It will then go to House. Unfortunately, Representative Workman in the House has reversed course, and is now willing to pass the House (he has gone back on his word). Workman isn’t talking to Nelson anymore. This is because Nelson is lobbying against the bill. (Page 89)

5) Discuss how to avoid a reversal of a Veto

Nelson believes we will win the war through contacting the Governor’s office. Call the Governor’s office and send emails. Make clear we are opposing Senate Bill 668. Nelson will send us a list of 2 Democrats, and 15 Republicans, in the House to lobby. This way, we can avoid any reversal of a veto. (Pg 89-90)

6) Claim that Legal Custody and Physical custody are the same "version"

Angel says that “joint legal custody” is our version of shared parental responsibility, which we already have a presumption for. (page 90)


Alimony passed (with timesharing premise tacked on). It HAS NOT gone to governor. If it goes to governor during session, he has 15 days. If it goes after session, he will have 30 days. The game plan is to flood the Governor with emails and phone calls and letters…the best will be non-lawyers reaching out to him. We could also send emails from our personal email addresses. Also, the best content will be personal stories. Magistrate Jones asks what if the Governor vetoes the bill? Nelson mentioned that both the Senate and House did not pass the bill by override majority (neither chamber passed it by more than 2/3 vote). Nelson feels fairly confident that if there is a veto, it would require a special session and a vote to override the veto. There may be a special session regarding the budget bill…so it could technically be addressed there, but Nelson thinks right now we have the votes to prevent an override of the veto…we just need to get the Governor to veto. David asks whether the Governor has given any indication what he intends to do. Nelson says no. Governor’s office is reviewing the bill and hasn’t made up their mind. BUT, they are very much tracking the phone calls and emails. Robin says there is a Petition going around regarding vetoing the bill for alimony reasons and now a second Petition going around regarding vetoing the bill for parenting issues. Nelson says the parenting issue, and particularly impact on child support, is a HUGE issue. Nelson and Magistrate Jones discuss the impact of explanations from Magistrates and Judges as to the negative impact this bill will have. Nelson asks Magistrate Jones to blind-copy Nelson and Maria. Maria explains we have engaged an executive branch level lobbyist to try to get to the Governor. Talking points and information has been delivered to the lobbyist. Nelson says rumors are Lee is not coming back and Workman will not be in the same position. We are looking at a new legislative landscape and potentially a better landscape for us. Nelson also mentions we will be back to a March to May legislative session since it isn’t an election year. Nelson mentions that Lee is the second most powerful person in the Senate because of his position, and we do not have enemies. The issue was a really powerful person (Lee) and another Senator (Ring) were enemies of ours but neither will be nearly as powerful next year. (Pages 92-93)

In short, to the opponents of shared parenting in Florida, the entire issue is a matter of politics. Nothing matters to them but winning and “winning” means stopping any reform of parenting time or alimony laws. The children of Florida received not a single mention in 100 pages. Neither did fathers who suffer the loss of children to divorce. Neither did mothers whose parenting time often prevents them from working, earning and saving for retirement. Neither did the many deficits produced by the trauma of losing a parent in the divorce process. Neither did the fact that those deficits often continue long into adulthood. Neither did the mind-numbing amounts of money that are spent every day, every year in an effort to address those deficits.

No, all of that went entirely unmentioned by the family lawyers who are pulling out all the stops to kill a bill that large majorities in the Florida House and Senate think would be beneficial to the people of the Sunshine State.

Someone needs to point out to Governor Scott just what the opposition values and what it doesn’t.


National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

#parentingtimereform, #alimonyreform, #sharedparenting, #FloridaBar

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