About the Association of Family Law Professionals
We are judges, lawyers, mental health and financial professionals, judicial assistants and court staff members, mediators, school counselors, educators, and other professionals working to help families through the maze of marital and family law matters.
The history of AFLP involves several interest groups that converged in the mid-1980’s: a small, diverse group of professionals who sought to determine whether Lee County needed court-sponsored mediation; another group who wished to change the adversarial nature of family law; and another who tasked themselves with educating professionals who serve divorcing couples. These groups, coupled with this community’s leaders who were willing to vocalize their opinions about protecting children through the divorce process, formed the philosophy and mission of the AFLP.
Innovative programs and procedures designed to help families going through divorce resulted from the collaboration of diverse professionals who through affiliation learned to trust and respect one another. The mission of AFLP, to make divorce less traumatic, less expensive, time consuming and protracted, becomes possible through the affiliation.
AFLP has served as a model to many other local groups in and out of the State of Florida. AFLP continues to seek and develop methods and techniques to resolve family disputes that enhance the quality of life of our community’s citizens.
The mission of the organization included educational activities and programs, but also improvement of the “system”. Hence, committees were formed in all areas of subjects, including parenting and financial matters. The result of these committees’ hard work led to innovative programs and procedures designed to help families going through divorce. The mission also included fellowship and marketing objectives, which resulted in all of us getting to know one another better, socially and in a different setting, away from the adversarial arena. Relationships were developed whereby trust and respect for one another was common. Adversarial attorneys came to know one another in different settings, as well as court experts and attorneys, all having a common goal: to make divorce less traumatic, less expensive, time consuming and protracted. The Judges had an opportunity to meet with all of the other professionals on a regular basis, sharing their concerns and goals. We became an interactive group, proactive in attacking arcane and inefficient procedures, and relentless in pursuing the goal of non-adversarial processes to help families.
Many financial professionals became actively involved in family cases, becoming mediators, as did many mental health professionals and attorneys. This resulted with many like minded individuals, all having a common purpose to change the old ways of handling divorce clients and family members. Now, we are the same group (many) years later. Our Judges are still active, as are all the other groups. We have spawned other similar local groups in Collier, Sarasota/Manatee, Pasco Counties in Florida and local groups outside of Florida. Our group is well known and respected in Florida and in many other states. Our circuit obtained a significant grant from the Office of the Supreme Court Administration to develop a case management system, largely from the broad based professional partnership between family law professionals and the Court system.
We must continue to “walk the walk”, not just give lip service to our goals; never be satisfied to rest on our laurels but continue to evolve and improve the process; truly care for those clients and parties and family members in order to help them understand the “restructuring” of their families does not have to be harmful, but can be rewarding and must be free of conflict to insure good lasting relationships.
Excerpt taken from “AFLP: How it Began and Evolved. Who Are We?” by Shelly Finman, originally published in the inaugural edition of the AFLP Newsletter, August 2004.