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Update on High Profile Tampa Same Sex Divorce Case

posted Sep 7, 2014, 7:28 AM by Adam Cordover   [ updated Sep 7, 2014, 8:42 AM ]

I have had the honor of representing a client in what has turned out to be a high profile court matter.  My client, a woman, married another woman in Massachusetts, eventually moved to Florida, and later the parties determined that the marriage was irretrievably broken.  The two women then went through the collaborative process, came to a full settlement agreement, and formed a united front before a Hillsborough County judge as they requested a dissolution of their marriage.

The trial court ultimately denied their request, determining that, because Florida does not recognize marriage between two people of the same sex, the court did not have jurisdiction to grant a divorce.  

The parties appealed to the Second District Court of Appeals, and at the same time they requested that the case be certified directly to the Florida Supreme Court.  They argued that the issue of whether two women who married in another jurisdiction can be divorced in Florida is of great public importance and affects the administration of justice throughout the state.  In the request, we pointed out that some judges in Florida were granting divorces to same sex spouses, and so the issue was being unevenly adjudicated depending on which part of the state couples lived in.  The request for certification was denied by a panel of Second District judges.
"For whatever it is worth, we encourage the Attorney General to make an appearance.  There is no better demonstration of the lack of any legitimate state interest for preventing two women from divorcing than having someone attempt to argue its rationality."

The Family Law Section of the Florida Bar soon requested that they be permitted to file a brief in the case.  The Section sought to file "as a matter of family and matrimonial lawyers seeking finality and certainty in their area of practice, and to promote and protect the rights of all Floridians equally to access our court system and to rely upon the legal rights and obligations of civil marriage."  The Section's request was granted.

In the meantime, several cases involving similar issues began making headway throughout the state.  Monroe and Miami-Dade County judges declared Florida's same sex marriage ban unconstitutional for purposes of the state granting marriage licenses to same sex couples.  Those decisions were stayed pending appeal by the attorney general's office.  Further, a Broward judge declared the ban unconstitutional and determined that is could and should grant a dissolution of a civil union between two women.  The attorney general's office is still determining whether it will appeal this matter.

In light of these decisions, the entire Second District Court of Appeals decided to revisit the issue of certification, and in a 10-3 ruling, determined that the Tampa same sex divorce case should be certified directly to the Florida Supreme Court.  In its opinion, the appellate court stated, 

Resolution of the constitutional questions will no doubt impact far more individuals than the two involved here.  And there can be little doubt that until the constitutional questions are finally resolved by the Florida Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court, there will be a great impact on the proper administration of justice in Florida.  Similarly, in light of those questions, it seems clear that this is a matter of great public importance.

Judge Altenbernd, however, wrote a dissenting opinion determining that the Second District Court of Appeals should not be certified to the Florida Supreme Court: 

We have an order from one circuit judge containing no reasoning as to the issue on appeal.  That order is not binding law on her colleagues in the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit, much less on the judges in other circuits.  I am confident that this court can ably consider this appeal and reach a proper resolution.  Our decision will resolve the issue for all trial courts in Florida unless another district court disagrees with us [citation omitted].

Ultimately, the Florida Supreme Court sided with Judge Altenbernd, declined at this time to accept jurisdiction over the case, and remanded the matter back to the Second District Court of Appeals.  Though this results in the case going through the regular course of appeals, it did not in any way suggest that either the Second DCA or the Florida Supreme Court would in the end rule against the parties' right to dissolve their marriage.

In another development, the Cities of St. Petersburg, Miami Beach, and Orlando (among others) filed a motion for leave to file a brief in the case.  In their motion, the Cities state, 

Our Mayors and Commissioners have resolved that marriage discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender ("LGBT") individuals is inimical to our citizens' health and welfare, detrimental to our efficiency and effectiveness as employers, and costs Government Amici hard-earned tourism revenue.  Likewise, Florida's prohibition on recognizing same sex marriages that were performed outside of florida unfairly denies married LGBT individuals the ability to terminate their legal relationship and wind up their finances, child custody, and support arrangements, even once their underlying relationship has ended.  Florida's refusal to allow married same sex couples to obtain a divorce is psychologically harmful and financially burdensome for same sex couples and their families.  Therefore, Government Amici have a powerful interest and unique voice as to the issue before the Court:  the validity of Florida's ban on same sex marriage and refusal to grant a divorce to married same sex couples.

The appellate court has yet to make a ruling on the Cities' request.

What is also up in the air is whether Florida's Attorney General, Pam Bondi, will make an appearance in this matter. For whatever it is worth, we encourage the Attorney General to make an appearance.  There is no better demonstration of the lack of any legitimate state interest for preventing two women from divorcing than having someone attempt to argue its rationality.

In any event, this Firm will continue to fight for resolution for its clients, and, in the meantime, advocate for marriage and divorce equality.

Below are links to recent articles in this matter:

If you have questions regarding Florida LGBT family law rights, schedule a consultation with The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., at (813) 443-0615, or fill out our contact form.

Cordover Presenter at Collaborative Family Law Council of Florida Conference

posted Aug 2, 2014, 3:01 PM by Adam Cordover   [ updated Aug 2, 2014, 3:01 PM ]

Tampa attorney Adam B. Cordover presented at the Second Annual Conference of the Collaborative Family Law Council of Florida.  Cordover teamed up with Miami attorney Rhonda Goodman, Tampa attorney Joryn Jenkins, and Miami therapist Lisette Beraja to lecture on the topic of "Gaining Collaborative Experience While Giving Back Through Pro Bono Work."  The Florida collaborative professionals provided a multi-media presentation on the benefits of providing pro bono collaborative family law services.

Collaborative family law, also referred to as collaborative divorce, is a private form of dispute resolution where the clients each retain attorneys who are settlement specialists and focus solely on helping the parties reaching an agreement with going to court.  A neutral facilitator, who generally has a mental health background, helps the clients focus on what is important to them, such as their children, rather than arguments of the past.  A neutral financial professional, generally an accountant or financial planner, ensures financial transparency between the clients and helps them develop financial options that is acceptable to both clients.

Adam B. Cordover was an attorney in the first pro bono collaborative divorce completed in the State of Florida. Cordover is also president of Next Generation Divorce, Florida' largest network of attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals dedicated to helping families resolve divorce and other issues privately, respectfully, and with their dignity intact.  Next Generation Divorce covers Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Sarasota, and Manatee Counties.

If you have questions about how a collaborative divorce can help your family, schedule a consultation with The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our contact form.

Cordover Interviewed In Tampa Tribune Article on Gay Marriage and Gay Divorce

posted Jul 31, 2014, 6:45 PM by Adam Cordover   [ updated Aug 2, 2014, 3:08 PM ]

Tampa family law attorney Adam B. Cordover was recently extensively quoted in a Tampa Tribune article on same sex marriage and divorce cases happening around Florida.  Below are some excerpts:

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.”


Cordover said the Monroe County ruling went further than the [parties] need the courts to go. “We believe, first off, that the court doesn’t even need to recognize the marriage in order to grant the divorce in our case. It simply needs to recognize that others do recognize the marriage.”

Cordover said the [parties] simply want to be legally declared as single.

The Monroe County judge “said that marriage is a fundamental right whether between one man and one woman or between two people of the same sex,” Cordover said. “We’re arguing the other side of the coin. Divorce is a fundamental right, whether it’s between one man and one woman or two people of the same sex.”

***

The [parties] lived in Massachusetts when they wed in 2010. They moved to Tampa in 2011. Although their marriage isn’t recognized by Florida, it is recognized by the federal government and in 19 states.

Without a divorce, the women are required to file their federal tax returns as married people. And if either one wants to remarry — even to a man — she could be prosecuted as a bigamist if she were to move to a state where their same-sex marriage is recognized. And if one of the women were traveling and became incapacitated while in a state where the marriage is recognized, then the other woman could legally make decisions for her even though the relationship is over.

“It’s been said that they’re wedlocked,” Cordover said. “They’re stuck together.”

***

The women agreed to a “collaborative divorce,” a process in which both sides hire lawyers, but agree to settle all issues outside of court. That means they didn’t need a judge to divide their assets or establish alimony. They asked only for a legal declaration that their marriage was over.

“They just want to be divorced,” Cordover said.

If you have questions about your Florida LGBT family law rights, schedule a consultation with The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our contact form.

Cordover Interviewed for Collaborative Divorce on Christian Radio Station

posted Jun 26, 2014, 10:59 AM by Adam Cordover

In March 2014, Tampa Bay family law attorney Adam B. Cordover was interviewed for the program Legally Speaking on Spirit F.M. 90.5, a Christian radio station.  Adam was joined by fellow collaborative attorney Joryn Jenkins to discuss the consequences that the traditional adversarial court process has not only on spouses and their children, but also the community as a whole.  

It is rare for both spouses to remain at the same church post-divorce, yet collaborative divorce offers the possibility of maintaining relationships and utilizing not only legal standards, but also community standards and family values when discussing tough issues such as child custody and financial support.  Rather than knock-down, drag out fights in the public courthouse, personal decisions related to divorce are made by the spouses in the private offices of professionals.

Each client has their own attorney to turn to for advise and guidance.  A neutral facilitator, who usually has training in a mental health field, helps manage the clients' emotions, teaches better communication and dispute resolution skills, and helps focus the clients on what is most important to them.  Oftentimes, a neutral financial professional is brought on board to serve as a central depository for all financial information, develop personalized options for division of assets and debts and support issues, and teach the clients good budgeting and money-management skills as needed.

The clients and collaborative attorneys sign a participation agreement which says that they will act with dignity and respect, and that the attorneys will focus solely on helping the parties' reach a marital settlement agreement.  The practical effect of the participation agreement is that the attorneys will withdraw if the parties act unreasonably or engage in contested courtroom battles.

The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., encourages anybody considering divorce to first speak with his or her priest, rabbi, clergy, therapist, or counselor.  Divorce is difficult, even under the best of circumstances, and especially when there are children involved.  However, if the marriage is truly irreparably broken, the clients, their children, and the community are usually best served if the collaborative divorce process is utilized.

If you have questions regarding how the collaborative divorce process can help you or someone in your community, schedule a consultation with The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our contact form.

Adam B. Cordover is the current President of Next Generation Divorce, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization composed of a network of caring attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals covering Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Sarasota, and Manatee Counties.

Cordover Featured Speaker in Carrollwood Collaborative Divorce Talk

posted May 31, 2014, 2:09 PM by Adam Cordover   [ updated May 31, 2014, 2:10 PM ]

Carrollwood Collaborative Divorce Discussion
Family law attorney Adam B. Cordover along with forensic accountant Sonya Johnson were invited to the Jimmie B. Keel Library in the Carrollwood neighborhood of Tampa, Florida, to discuss collaborative divorce.

The talk was part of the "Ask A Lawyer" series spearheaded by the Hillsborough County Bar Association Lawyer Referral and Information Service and held in conjunction with Next Generation Divorce.  

Cordover and Johnson discussed collaborative divorce as a private, respectful alternative to the traditional courtroom battles.  They also discussed how not only attorneys, but also financial professionals and mental health professionals are oftentimes utilized to address the emotional and financial aspects of divorce.

Adam B. Cordover is currently president of Next Generation Divorce as well as Outreach Chair for the Hillsborough County Bar Association Collaborative Law Section.  Cordover is also tapped to be a speaker at the August 2014 Second Annual Conference of the Collaborative Family Law Council of Florida in Orlando, Florida, as well as the October 2014 Educational Forum of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals in Vancouver, Canada.

If you have questions about how collaborative divorce can help divorcing spouses reach an agreement without destroying their family, schedule a consultation with The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our contact form.


Cordover Discusses Tampa Same Sex Divorce on Fox 13

posted May 29, 2014, 7:53 AM by Adam Cordover   [ updated May 29, 2014, 7:54 AM ]

Adam B. Cordover on Fox 13 to Discuss Florida Same Sex Divorce
Family Law Attorney Adam B. Cordover appeared on Fox 13 to provide an update on the same sex divorce matter recently dismissed by a Hillsborough County Judge.  Cordover represents one of the spouses.

The parties married in Massachusetts and later moved to Florida.  When they separated, they used the collaborative family law process to privately and respectfully come to a full agree on all issues.  This helped them form a united front as they then went before a Tampa judge and asked for an uncontested dissolution of their marriage.

Their request for divorce was ultimately dismissed, as the judge determined that she could not dissolve a marriage that the laws of the State of Florida does not recognize.

The parties are now appealing the dismissal, making this the first same sex divorce case in Florida to challenge the state's Defense of Marriage Act and 2008 constitutional amendment banning the recognition of same sex marriages.

The parties have requested that the Second District Court of Appeals immediately certify the case to the Florida Supreme Court because the appeal is of great public importance and it will have a great effect on the proper administration of justice.

Below are some of the quotes from the Fox 13 interview:

"They're stuck. They can't go back to Massachusetts because Massachusetts has a one-year residency requirement."

***

"It's been said the parties are 'wed-locked' -- that they just can't get out of their divorce and they're stuck, they're absolutely stuck."

***

"Even the U.S. Supreme Court have said parties have the right to marry, it even says parties have the right to divorce, and we are simply asking for the state to recognize these two women's right to divorce."

If you have questions regarding LGBT family law rights in Florida, schedule a consultation with The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our contact form.

Attorney Cordover Quoted in Tampa Tribune on Same Sex Divorce Case

posted May 16, 2014, 3:10 AM by Adam Cordover   [ updated May 16, 2014, 3:10 AM ]

Breaking Tampa Bay, Florida and national news and weather from Tampa Bay Online and The Tampa Tribune | TBO.com

Adam B. Cordover was recently quoted in the Tampa Tribune about his thoughts on (I) the most recently ruling from the Hillsborough County Family Court dismissing a petition for dissolution of a same sex marriage and (II) the parties' chances at appeal:

"We’re pretty confident that the parties will be able to get a divorce through the Second District Court of Appeal or the Florida Supreme Court,” said Adam Cordover, attorney... “I’m very hopeful. The trend in the various court systems is in favor of marriage equality."

Adam represents one of the parties who legally married in Massachusetts, moved to Florida, and then came to find that their marriage was irretrievably broken.  Like many other families in Tampa Bay, they utilized the collaborative divorce process to retain their dignity and privacy, focus on the future, and form a united front.  Now they are using the dismissal of their petition for divorce as an opportunity to challenge Florida's discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, with Adam remaining on the case as appellate co-counsel.

If you have questions regarding the rights of LGBT families or about collaborative family law, contact The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., at (813-443-0615) or fill out our contact form.

Adam is President of Next Generation Divorce, a group of caring attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals dedicated to helping families in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Sarasota, and Manatee Counties through difficult periods of family transition such as divorce and child custody.

Cordover Defends Tampa Same Sex Spouses’ Right to Divorce

posted Apr 6, 2014, 8:03 AM by Adam Cordover   [ updated Apr 24, 2014, 5:42 AM ]

Tampa Same Sex Divorce
If a same sex couple gets legally married outside of Florida, subsequently moves to this state, and then determines that their marriage is irretrievably broken, do they have the right to divorce in Florida?  That is the question that The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., is working to get answered in the affirmative in a ground-breaking case in Tampa.   

In this case, the parties utilized the private, respectful collaborative family law process to settle all of their marital issues and form a united front to ask for a divorce (Read Adam B. Cordover's blog post on the role of collaborative practice in this case).  An April hearing is scheduled for the trial judge to hear arguments on whether she has the authority to dissolve a marriage which the state of Florida does not recognize.

Links to media outlets covering this story can be found below:

·         Fox 13 Tampa Bay (Tampa Bay)

·         Tampa Bay Times (Tampa Bay)

·         ABC Action News (Tampa Bay)

·         10 News CBS (Tampa Bay Sarasota)

·         Watermark Online (Central Florida)

·         Miami New Times (Miami)

·         WCJB-TV20 (Gainesville)

·         Pink News (United Kingdom)

If you have questions about your Florida family law rights and wish to speak to an attorney in an open, friendly environment, schedule a consultation with The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our contact form.

Adam B. Cordover Published in The Lawyer Magazine on Collaborative Family Law

posted Feb 28, 2014, 1:28 PM by Adam Cordover   [ updated Feb 28, 2014, 1:29 PM ]

Hillsborough County Bar Association
Attorney Adam B. Cordover has been published in the LAWYER Magazine on the topic of "Top 3 Reasons to Practice Collaborative Family Law" (the article is on page 18).  The LAWYER Magazine is a publication of the Hillsborough County Bar Association and reaches nearly 4,000 members of the Tampa Bay legal community.

Below are some excerpts:

"You may have heard of the reasons clients choose the collaborative method to resolve their legal and family disputes: Respect is fostered. Communication is
enhanced. Privacy is maintained. Solutions are comprehensive. Budgets are respected. Agreements are long-lasting.

But why do attorneys choose to practice collaborative law?

Work in a Team Environment

Rather than adversaries, the other party and attorney on a collaborative case are fellow team members whose goals include finding a solution best for the family. The team is led by a neutral facilitator — generally a mental health professional — who guides productive and respectful behavior for the clients and their attorneys.

A financial professional usually takes over many of the disclosure responsibilities and develops options that maximize the parties’ resources. Collaborative practitioners refer to this team-centric view as a “paradigm-shift,” as attorneys must: (i) discard the “us versus them” mentality; and (ii) cede control over aspects of the case to professionals who will more efficiently and effectively address them.

Engage in a Creative and Intellectual Endeavor

Creativity as a problem-solving skill is essential in collaborative practice, as attorneys must withdraw if the clients are unable to reach an agreement. Unlike in mediation, where the option of impasse takes the pressure off of parties and their attorneys from making difficult decisions, attorneys who do not want to be fired must dig deep into their toolboxes to address interests behind stated positions.

Of course, this is made easier with the help of the interdisciplinary team. The facilitator will identify underlying issues, lead brainstorming sessions, and help the clients respectfully and productively choose the best solution for them. Further, the financial professional will propose property division, child support, and alimony scenarios that are well beyond the expertise of family law attorneys. In turn, attorneys’ exposure to financial and mental health professionals’ perspectives on issues tend to widen their knowledge base and aide their general law practice.

Help Clients Grow

Rather than being destructive, collaborative practice tends to be a constructive process for clients. The facilitator teaches respectful communication skills and techniques for resolving future disputes. Where children are involved, the focus remains on them, and co-parenting skills are enhanced. The financial professional can often find tax benefits, teach the financially less sophisticated spouse how to create a budget, and/or propose better strategies for the clients’ portfolios.

Client growth brings higher rates of satisfaction, and happy clients lead to happy attorneys. (By the way, according to a multi-year study by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, almost 90 percent of collaborative cases end successfully, with an additional 2 percent of cases ending in reconciliation of the clients.)"

If you are going through a divorce, child custody proceeding, or other family law matter, and you want to know how the collaborative law process can help you and your family, schedule a consultation with The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our contact form.

Adam B. Cordover is president of Next Generation Divorce, a group of attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals with approximately 70 members dedicated to helping Tampa Bay and Greater Sarasota families hand disputes privately and respectfully.

Adam B. Cordover Receives Top Lawyer Rating on Avvo.com

posted Feb 12, 2014, 10:14 AM by Adam Cordover   [ updated Feb 12, 2014, 10:14 AM ]

https://sites.google.com/site/abcfamilylawcom/firm-news-and-notes/_draft_post-3/Avvo%2010%20Rating%20Badge.png
Adoption and Collaborative Family Law Attorney Adam B. Cordover has received the top rating of 10.0 on the lawyer review site, Avvo.com.  

Adam focuses his practice on helping families through adoption proceeding and by providing clients with a civil and respectful forum to resolve their family disputes, the collaborative process.

You may schedule a consultation with Adam B. Cordover by calling us at (813) 443-0615 or filling out our contact form.  Adam practices in Pinellas, Pasco, Sarasota, Manatee, Hernando, and Hillsborough Counties.

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