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.

Our History

[lvca_carousel arrows=”true” autoplay=”true” autoplay_speed=”3000″ animation_speed=”300″ pause_on_hover=”true” display_columns=”1″ scroll_columns=”1″ gutter=”1″ tablet_display_columns=”1″ tablet_scroll_columns=”1″ tablet_gutter=”1″ tablet_width=”800″ mobile_display_columns=”1″ mobile_scroll_columns=”1″ mobile_gutter=”10″ mobile_width=”480″][lvca_carousel_item]A committee formed in the mid-1980’s with a diverse membership, co-chaired by Mary Robinson, Solomon Agin and Shelly Finman, tasked with determining whether or not our community was in need of Court sponsored mediation.  After 2 years of regular morning meetings at the old Snack House Restaurant at the Collier Arcade, it was decided we did.  However, there was no budget.  Therefore, with the support of a “shoe string” budget from the office of Court Administration (Doug Wilkinson) and Judge Hugh Starnes, we began training volunteer mediators at the HRS offices in the evenings.[/lvca_carousel_item][lvca_carousel_item]A committee, called the “cooperation committee” consisting of Judge Lynn Gerald, Judge Starnes, Steve Helgemo, George Kluttz, Gail Markham, and Shelly Finman met at the Veranda Restaurant in the mid to late 80’s, discussing ways to change some of the adversarial methods, resulting in local orders and posturing the Bench and Bar with non-adversarial, more conciliatory methods of practicing in Court.[/lvca_carousel_item][lvca_carousel_item]Judge Lee Schreiber and Steve Thompson were chairing our loosely formed Lee County Family Law group and planning and putting on all day seminars covering a variety of topics, all multi-disciplinary in scope and always involving the family law Judges.  After many years, Shelly Finman began to assist in chairing and promoting these seminars until one year, probably around 1991 or 1992, after putting on a wonderful program for the circuit at the Helm Club, it was decided to not disband the steering committee but form a permanent group with an expanded mission.[/lvca_carousel_item][lvca_carousel_item]AFLP was born, first as an informal group, headed by an organizing committee, which became the Executive Committee.  The original members were:  Judge Jim Seals and Shelly Finman, as co-chairs; Judge Lee Schreiber, Marvin Metheny, David Kelly, Steve Helgemo, George Kluttz, and Wendy Blanton, assistant Court Administrator, who soon left and was replaced by Karen Alley.  Judge Seals authored the original mission statement.  Executive Committee meetings were held monthly at Mama Pasta Restaurant for many years.[/lvca_carousel_item][lvca_carousel_item]In the meantime, the mental health professionals, including Robert Silver, had decided to have a policy not to be a Court expert witness unless by Stipulation.  The requirement forced upon the legal professionals led the way to development and refinement of the “neutral Expert” process, which we find today in the cooperative model.[/lvca_carousel_item][/lvca_carousel]

Our Mission

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.