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Cordover & Gaies Present on LGBTQ Families & Relationships

On August 11, 2017, psychologist and collaborative facilitator Jeremy Gaies joined collaborative attorney and mediator Adam B. Cordover to present on the topic of “LGBTQ Relationships:  The New Family and Out-of-Court Dispute Resolution.”  Gaies and Cordover facilitated the LGBTQ families workshop at the 25th Annual Conference of Florida’s Dispute Resolution Center.

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Purpose of LGBTQ Families Workshop

The purpose of the workshop was threefold:

  1. Identify specific legal and other considerations for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) individuals and families;
  2. Engage in discussion of various out-of-court options to meet LGBTQ needs; and
  3. Consider new and future legal challenges for LGBTQ clients and the family law community.

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Can 2 Men or 2 Women Appear on a Florida Birth Certificate?

Florida has not had the best history when it comes to the rights of same-sex couples.  For the longest time, the state had a law on the books that gay men and women were forbidden from adopting a child.  Florida not only enacted a so-called Defense of Marriage Act statute but enshrined its opposition to same-sex marriage in the state’s constitution.  Further, even once Florida courts ruled that the state must recognize marriage between people of the same sex, it was unclear whether the state would permit same-sex divorce.

Fortunately, the state has come a long way.  The “gay adoption ban” is no longer on the books.  The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a ban on the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples is unconstitutional, as is a refusal of one state to recognize a same-sex marriage solemnized in another state.  And it has become clear that circuit courts in Tampa Bay and around the state must give same-sex spouses the opportunity to dissolve their marriage.

So, at this point, can two parents of the same sex appear on a Florida birth certificate?

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Divorce Lawyer Client Review: A Complicated Divorce Goes Collaborative

Recently, I came across a very complicated divorce matter where two women had been battling in the court system for six years, even before the State of Florida recognized their marriage.  One of the women ended up firing her aggressive trial attorney and hiring me because I offered an alternative: collaborative divorce.  Once everyone agreed to stop fighting, we were able to reach an agreement within just a few months’ time.

That client, Pattie, recently wrote a touching review about my paralegal, Jennifer, and I at avvo.com.  You can find the review below.

As I am required to note by the Florida Bar, please understand that every case is different, and you may not receive the same or similar results.

The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover & Staff are amazing, professional caring people. Please know that I don’t mean for this review to be long or boring, my intent is to shed hope & shine light into your present life from my past experience and situation.

My situation was very complicated from the start being a same sex marriage which for years was not recognized in the State of Florida until January 2015 and two properties involved.

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Cordover Presents on LGBT Family Law in Sarasota

Family Diplomacy’s managing attorney Adam B. Cordover gave a presentation on “The New Family: LGBT Issues & Family Law” at the 2015 Fall Conference of the Florida Court Professional Collaborative (FCPC) of the Twelfth Judicial Circuit.  The title of the Conference was “2015 Trends in Family Law.”

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Florida to Make Marriage Certificates Gender Neutral. What About Birth Certificates?

According to a recent report in the Tampa edition of Creative Loafing, in light of the recent Supreme Court decision and issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Florida’s Office of Vital Statistics is making the state’s marriage certificates gender neutral.  From Creative Loafing:

Friday marked the anniversary of the anniversary of District Judge Robert Hinkle’s ruling that struck down the state’s gay marriage ban.

On the eve of that anniversary, LGBT equality advocates saw another small but symbolic victory, according to Equality Florida.marriagecertificateweb.jpg

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Keiba Shaw Media Statement on Tampa Same Sex Divorce Appeal

On May 29, 2015, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal released its opinion in the matter of Shaw v. Shaw.  It determined that Florida should give full faith and credit to a same-sex marriage entered into under the laws of Massachusetts, and that Florida courts have the authority to dissolve the marriage.

This has been a long, tough road, but this is truly a great day for equality.

Keiba Shaw has authorized the release of the following statement:

An uncontested divorce between a man and a woman in Florida can be resolved in as little as a month. That’s just four weeks to dissolve a negative situation that both parties agree needs to end. It doesn’t matter how long they were married or WHERE they were married.

My [soon-to-be] former spouse and I used a next generation process, collaborative divorce, that was designed to resolve conflicts in a manner that was private, non-litigated, peaceful, and respectful. We reached a full agreement on all issues in two meetings that were one week apart.

And yet, because my former spouse and I are both women, my divorce has taken more than a year to be granted and has unnecessarily disrupted my life and that of my family members. The legal complexities have limited my options and the resulting financial burden has made it harder to take care of my family the way I envisioned.

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Is Florida’s Gay Adoption Ban Still On The Books?

Most people know that, for a long time, Florida did not permit gay individuals to adopt children.

Florida’s adoption laws were and are mainly based on the best interests of the child.  Even if a prospective adoptive parent were a convicted violent felon, the felony likely would not automatically prevent an adoption from happening; the judge would need to entertain evidence and make a determination about whether, despite the felony, the adoption was in the best interests of the adoptee.

But if a prospective adoptive parent were gay, and the judge knew this fact, there would be no analysis.  A gay person was not permitted under Florida law to adopt a child, regardless of whether it was in the child’s best interest.

However, that all changed in 2010, when Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals published its decision in In re the Adoption of XXG and NRG.

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Can I Now Divorce My Same-Sex Spouse in Florida?

Last week, Federal Judge Robert L. Hinkle clarified his ruling in Brenner v. Scott to state, definitively, that the U.S. Constitution requires Florida clerks of court to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  This has brought great jubilation that marriage equality is finally recognized in Florida.  Clerks throughout the state (including in my own Hillsborough County) have begun issuing marriage licenses, and some even have officiated over marriages.

Hillsborough County Clerk of the Court Pat Frank Officiates Over a Mass Same-Sex Wedding

Hillsborough County Clerk of the Court Pat Frank Officiates Over a Mass Same-Sex Wedding

However, is same-sex marriage yet completely equal in Florida?  Is it recognized for all purposes in Florida, including for purposes of dissolving that marriage?

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Florida Same-Sex Annulment

As Florida does not currently recognize same-sex marriages, some judges have interpreted the state’s ban as precluding them from granting same-sex divorces.  I am involved in a case in which two women married in Massachusetts, moved to Florida, and separated.  They utilized the interdisciplinary collaborative process to come to a full settlement agreement and filed a petition for dissolution of marriage in Tampa.  The judge ultimately denied their petition, determining that she did not have jurisdiction to dissolve that which the state does not recognize.

And we appealed.  This has become the first divorce matter in Florida to challenge Article I, Section 27 of the Florida Constitution banning recognition of same-sex marriage.

In the meantime, the gay marriage ban is still in effect.  So is there anything that same-sex spouses can do to legally end their marriage in Florida?

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Tampa Same Sex Divorce Appeal: Text of Answer Brief

We know all men are not created equal in the sense some people would have us believe – some people are smarter than others, some people have more opportunity because they’re born with it, some men make more money than others, some ladies make better cakes than others – some people are born gifted beyond the normal scope of most men.

But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal – there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any college president.  That institution … is a court.  It can be the Supreme Court of the United States or the humblest [lower] court in the land. . . . Our courts have their faults, but in this country our courts are the great levelers, and in our courts all men are created equal.

Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird, pg. 274 (1960).  Mockingbird is a timeless novel set in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama in the 1930’s.  Discrimination was the norm and “separate but equal” ruled the day.  Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896).  The words are from a different time, yet they apply directly to the laws being challenged in this Court.

You can find the answer brief in the Tampa same sex divorce appeal at the following link: 2D14-2384 Shaw Appellee’s Answer Brief.

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