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Dade Legal Aid packed the house for its annual ‘Nuts & Bolts of Family Law’ Seminar

Senior Editor Top Stories

Put Something BackThe “Nuts & Bolts of Divorce Family Law” seminar has been a staple of Dade Legal Aid’s “Put Something Back,” pro bono program. Now in its 31st year, the annual CLE event took place May 24 to help recruit and train new attorneys for family law pro bono cases.

The program, put together in coordination with the Miami-Dade Bar Association’s Family Courts Committee and Young Lawyers Section, draws between 75 and 85 attorneys each year, but for the 2023 edition, a whopping 120 sold the seminar out forcing registration to close early because the Lawson E. Thomas Courthouse Center couldn’t hold them all.

Dade Legal Aid’s Executive Director Karen Ladis says Nuts & Bolts has trained thousands of new family law pro bono attorneys over the years but noted, “We still get the most seasoned family law attorneys who come to these seminars. They feel if they learn one new thing it’s a benefit.”

The keynote address was delivered by Chief Judge Nushin Sayfie of the 11th Judicial Circuit who discussed the importance of pro bono work and the need for attorneys to accept cases. Judge Sayfie began her career in the Miami-Dade Courts’ Juvenile Dependency Division and family law cases are near to her heart.

Judge Samantha Ruiz Cohen of the 11th Circuit’s Family Division gave her perspective from the bench while former Judge Sarah Zabel led a discussion on mediation. The seminar also featured a panel on professionalism which was led by Robert Josefsberg, Gerald Kornreich, and Paul Lipton.

With recent changes to divorce and alimony proceedings, the need for pro bono attorneys to handle the growing numbers of family law cases has never been greater.

SB 1416, the measure to eliminate permanent alimony in Florida and replace it with durational alimony based on the length of the marriage passed through the Florida legislature May 3. While the bill has not been sent to Gov. DeSantis’ desk yet for his signature, its potential impact on family law was discussed ad nauseum.

“Marck Joseph is our legislative liaison and gave participants a legislative update on potential changes to family law,” Ladis said. “One of the new laws he covered at length was alimony reform. Everyone was on the edge of their seat.”

Amber Kornreich and Brittany Bonner moderated the CLE which covered a wide range of topics, including how to do a divorce, initial client interviews, the role of a guardian ad litem, ethics, technology, time-sharing, pre-nuptial agreements, domestic violence, and mediation.

“The topics were mind-blowing,” Ladis said. “Every speaker was better than the last and more importantly every attorney stayed until the end of the event.”

Dade Legal Aid also recognized seven outstanding family law attorneys for their pro bono work: Adrian Acosta, Patricia Mesa James Piccolino, Alex John Saiz, Peter J. Sautter, Brian W. Toth, and Francisco J. Vargas.

“These men and women went above and beyond particularly during the pandemic,” Ladis said. “Combined they’ve provided over 2,000 hours on a variety of family, domestic violence, and guardian ad litem cases.”

The seminar was offered for free for attorneys who agree to accept a family law case from the Put Something Back campaign.

Ladis says the evolution of the Nuts and Bolts has really progressed since its inception.

“In year one, we covered how to do a divorce proceeding and it’s grown from there,” Ladis said. “Many attorneys find benefit in the seminar because whatever they learn here they can use for their clients in private practice. The law is the law.”

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