While many lawyers may handle marital and family law matters at various levels, only those who have met the requirements of Board Certification are allowed to identify themselves as a “specialist.” Certification is the highest level of recognition by The Florida Bar of the competency and experience of attorneys in the areas of law approved for certification by the state Supreme Court.
A lawyer who is a member in good standing of The Florida Bar and who meets the standards set by the Supreme Court of Florida, may become a “Board Certified Marital and Family Lawyer.”
Certified lawyers in marital and family law are specialists who handle legal problems arising from the family relationship of husband and wife and parent and child, including litigation of civil controversies arising from those relationships. In addition to actual pretrial and trial processes, “marital and family law” includes evaluating, handling, and resolving controversies prior to the institution of suit and after judgment is entered.
Every lawyer certified in marital and family law has practiced law for at least five years and been substantially involved — 30 percent or more — in the practice of marital and family law during the five years immediately preceding application. To be certified, it must be verified that the lawyer has been involved in at least 25 contested marital and family law cases in circuit courts during the five years immediately preceding application. All of these cases must have involved substantial legal or factual issues other than the dissolution of marriage. In each of these 25 cases the applicant shall have been responsible for all or a majority of the presentation of evidence and representation of the client. At least 10 of the 25 cases trials, i.e., must have been submitted to the trier of fact for resolution.
Within the 3 years immediately preceding application the lawyer is required to demonstrate substantial involvement in marital and family law cases sufficient to demonstrate special competence as a marital and family lawyer. Substantial involvement includes active participation in client interviewing, counseling, investigating, preparation of pleadings, participation in discovery, taking of testimony, presentation of evidence, attendance at hearings, negotiations of settlement, attendance at mediation, drafting and preparation of marital settlement agreements, and argument and trial of marital and family law cases. Substantial involvement may also include active participation in the appeal of marital and family law cases.
Each certified lawyer has received favorable confidential peer review, completed 50 hours of continuing legal education within the three years immediately preceding application and passed a rigorous written examination demonstrating sufficient knowledge, skills and proficiency in the field of marital and family law to justify the representation of special competence.
Board certification is valid for five years, during which time the attorney must continue to practice law and attend Florida Bar-approved continuing legal education courses. To be recertified, requirements similar to those for initial certification must be met. Not all qualified lawyers are certified, but those who are board certified have taken these extra steps to have their competence and experience recognized.
Marital and Family Law Certification was approved by the Supreme Court of Florida in 1984.