LGBT FAMILY LAW

Given the current state of the laws in Florida, members of the LGBT community often wonder where to turn for advice and help on handling family law issues. Family Diplomacy prides itself on offering an open, friendly, and supportive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. We will strive to find a solution that is tailored to you and your family’s needs.

COLLABORATIVE FAMILY LAW FOR SAME SEX SPOUSES AND PARTNERS

Rather than go through the public adversarial court system to resolve personal family matters, Family Diplomacy recommends that Tampa Bay same sex spouses and partners utilize the private, respectful dispute resolution process of Collaborative Family Law.

In the Collaborative Process, attorneys are retained solely to settle disputes privately and are contractually barred from bringing contested issues to be decided by a judge. A facilitator, who is normally a trained mental health professional, is engaged to keep everyone focused on the best interests of the family and the children, if any, and to keep communication respectful and productive. A financial professional is involved to help untangle the combined assets and debts of the parties (under Florida and Federal law, this can be an especially technical undertaking for same sex relationships) and provide options for support.

Adam B. Cordover is an internationally-recognized leader and trainer in collaborative practice.  He has presented on the topic of the use of collaborative practice for LGBT families in Florida to judges, attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals in Tampa, Sarasota, and Orlando.  He is also a co-author of an upcoming American Bar Association book on collaborative family law.

Florida Bar Family Law Section Moves To File Brief In Same Sex Divorce Appeal

The Family Law Section of the Florida Bar, representing over 4,000 attorneys and affiliate members, has decided to file a brief in a divorce appeal in favor of the right of same sex spouses in Florida to divorce.  The Family Law Section is joined by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (“AAML”) in what is believed to be the first same sex divorce case in Florida to challenge the state’s Defense of Marriage Act and constitutional amendment banning “gay marriage.”

As an attorney for one of the spouses – who were married in Massachusetts, moved to Florida, and filed for divorce in Hillsborough County – I welcome the support of the Family Law Section and AAML.

In their motion requesting permission to file an amicus brief, the Family Law Section and the AAML write the following:

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Tampa Tribune: Florida Gay Marriage and Gay Divorce Cases

As I wrote in a previous post, a Florida Circuit Court judge in Monroe County (in the Florida Keys) declared that Florida’s ban on same sex marriage is unconstitutional.  Though that ruling was stayed (not put into effect) pending appeal, a Miami-Dade judge made a similar ruling this past week, which was also stayed.

A few days before the Miami ruling came out, I was interviewed by Elaine Silvestrini of the Tampa Tribune about my Tampa same sex divorce case now under appeal in the Second District Court of Appeals and how the Florida Keys ruling may or may not affect the divorce case.  Below are some excerpts of the Tampa Tribune article:

Although the decision [to permit same sex marriages] has no force of law in the rest of the state, lawyers [in the same sex divorce case] say it may help their case for divorce equality.

“It’s not authoritative, but it provides a little bit more persuasion,” said Adam Cordover, who represents [one of the divorcing spouses]. “It shows that yet another court has ruled in favor of marriage equality. The currents of history are in favor of marriage and divorce equality.”

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BREAKING NEWS – Florida Judge Permits Same Sex Marriage Licenses in Florida Keys

Yet another judge has declared a ban on same sex marriages to be unconstitutional, and this one occurred right here in Florida.  The Honorable Luis M. Garcia found the law preventing the Clerk of Monroe County from issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples invokes a fundamental right and has no rational basis and, accordingly,  violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

The order reads, in part, as follows:

Due Process Clause

***

There is no dispute by the parties that the right to marry is a fundamental right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.  The parting-of-the-ways occurs on whether the right to marry belongs to the individual and that individual’s choice of spouse or whether the state has the authority to dictate one’s choice in spouse to the opposite sex.

***

This court concludes that a citizen’s right to marry is a fundamental right that belongs to the individual.  The right these plaintiffs seek is not a new right, but a right that these individuals have always been guaranteed by the United States Constitution.  Societal norms and traditions have kept same-sex couples from marrying, like it kept women from voting until 1920 and forbid interracial marriage until 1967.

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“Next Generation Divorce” Takes On A New Meaning At St. Pete Pride

Last Sunday, I met a lot of people who had a lot of questions regarding their parental and family law rights.  My law firm sponsored a booth at the St. Pete Pride festival in St. Petersburg, Florida, where I discussed topics such as adoptions, name changes, and LGBT child custody rights.  I also had the chance to talk about collaborative family law, a private form of dispute resolution which I have used to help same sex partners amicably separate.

20140706-153645-56205458.jpgAt the pride festival, I was wearing a metal name tag that I received from my collaborative family law practice group, Next Generation Divorce.  Next Generation Divorce is comprised of over 100 caring attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals dedicated to helping parents and divorcing spouses handle difficult issues amicably and with their dignity intact.  I happen to be Next Generation Divorce’s current president and, needless to say, I strongly support the organization’s drive to help folks resolve disputes respectfully through the collaborative process.

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Florida Transgender Community Aided by President Obama

The Tampa Bay Times is reporting that President Obama has worked to advance the rights of transgender individuals in Florida and elsewhere:

With little of the fanfare or criticism that marked his evolution into the leader Newsweek nicknamed “the first gay president,” Obama became the first chief executive to say “transgender” in a speech, to name transgender political appointees and to prohibit job bias against transgender government workers.

Also in his first term, he signed hate crime legislation that became the first federal civil rights protections for transgender people in U.S. history.

Since then, the administration has quietly applied the power of the executive branch to make it easier for transgender people to update their passports, obtain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, get treatment at Veteran’s Administration facilities and seek access to public school restrooms and sports programs – just a few of the transgender-specific policy shifts of Obama’s presidency.

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BREAKING NEWS: Tampa Same Sex Divorce Dismissed by Trial Judge; Parties to Appeal

Many people have been following a matter that I am involved in, the same sex divorce case in Tampa, Florida.  Well, the judge just issued her ruling, and she dismissed the amended petition for dissolution of the parties’ marriage.

In her order, Judge Lee writes the following:

The Petitioner filed her initial Petition for Dissolution of Marriage on January 15, 2014.  Thereafter, the parties entered into the collaborative divorce process and successfully completed that process.  As a result, the parties voluntarily entered into a Collaborative Marital Settlement Agreement on March 14, 2014.  Subsequently, on March 17, 2014, the Petitioner filed her Amended Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and asked the court to accept jurisdiction of the subject matter, dissolve the marriage of the parties, and adopt and incorporate the Collaborative Marital Settlement Agreement into a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.

RELATED: Tampa Same Sex Divorce and Collaborative Practice

As alleged in the Amended Petition, the parties married …in the State of Massachusetts.  The parties are a same-sex couple. While the State of Massachusetts authorizes and recognizes same-sex marriages, by current law the State of Florida does not authorize or recognize such unions.

Specifically, in 2008, Florida citizens amended Article I of the Florida Constitution by voter initiate to provide as follows:

Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.  Art. I, s. 27, Fla. Const.

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Could Chelsea Manning Have Received A Legal Name Change in Florida?

A couple of weeks ago, the Washington Post reported that an army soldier convicted of leaking classified materials had changed her legal name from Bradley Manning to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning.  Ms. Manning’s name change has come after her public acknowledgment that she is transgender.

So could Chelsea Manning have been granted a name change in Florida?

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Texas Judge Rules Denial of Same Sex Divorce Unconstitutional

In a case with many similarities to the Florida same sex divorce matter being deliberated here in Tampa, a district judge in Texas has ruled that, despite that state’s same sex marriage ban, two women should be permitted to divorce.  In fact, according to the Daily Kos, the Texas judge ruled that their Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, and so this divorce case should proceed like any other divorce:

Judge Barbara Nellermoe, in a five-page ruling released Tuesday, pinpointed three portions of the Texas Family Code as unconstitutional, as well as Section 32 of the Texas Constitution. Nellermoe wrote that “in a well-reasoned opinion by Judge Orlando Garcia, the federal district court found that a state cannot do what the federal government cannot – that is, it cannot discriminate against same-sex couples.”

The trial judge found that the state had no rational basis to deny recognition of same sex married couples.  Judge Nellermoe also found that “Texas’ denial of recognition of the parties’ out-of-state same-sex marriage violates equal protection and due process rights when Texas does afford full faith and credit to opposite-sex marriages celebrated in other states.”

According to the Austin Statesman, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot subsequently responded by asking the 4th Court of Appeals to stay, or pause, Judge Nellermoe’s proceedings, and the appellate court granted that request.  This does not mean that the appellate court will reverse Judge Nellermoe’s ruling; it just means that it will hear arguments, set for May 5, and make a determination later.

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Dalai Lama Voices Support for Same Sex Marriage

Supporters of marriage equality just got one more ally. According to a report by ABC News, the Dalai Lama has voiced his support for marriage by individuals of the same sex.

The Dalai Lama has joined the growing chorus of people who support gay marriage, the exiled Tibetan religious leader said during his latest visit to the United States.
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Florida’s Defense of Marriage Act

The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments on the rights of lesbian and gay individuals to marry partners of the same sex, and Florida’s laws may be affected.  Currently, same sex partners are not only prohibited from entering into marriage in Florida,  but Florida law also prohibits the recognition of same sex marriages that were validly sanctioned in any other state or nation.

Related:  Five Legal Steps Florida LGBT Parents Should Take

Florida has a version of the Defense of Marriage Act (section 741.212, Florida Statutes), which reads as follows:

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