OFF THE BEATEN PATH – A LOOK AT MARILYN BLUMBERG
Contributed By: Naomi M. Massave, Attorney at Carlton Fields and WCC Communications Committee member
Marilyn Blumberg’s dream is to compete on “The Amazing Race.” For those who know Marilyn, this is absolutely consistent with her philosophy of seeking alternatives to lead to opportunities in life. Her life story certainly does not represent the “beaten path.”
Marilyn grew up in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and later moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where her family started a chain of specialized clothing boutiques. Even at a young age, Marilyn would run the boutiques while her parents traveled to Europe. Today, Marilyn applies the skills she learned running the boutiques to run her own law practice, The Law Offices of Marilyn Blumberg, P.A.
Marilyn obtained her undergraduate degree in SOCIAL WORK from the University of Georgia, and later obtained her Masters in Social Work from Barry University. She then worked as a probation officer, hospital social worker and patient advocate, with a specialty in gerontology. Because of her extensive experience, Marilyn was appointed Executive Officer of the Dade County Nursing Home Ombudsman Committee which was followed by news agencies locally and nationally, where she helped protect senior citizens from mistreatment. Marilyn was also retained as a consultant to the Dade County Grand Jury investigating unlicensed nursing home facilities, and helped lead a major overhaul of the Probate/Guardianship court system. Marilyn explained that before the overhaul, the duties of probate guardians were unclear and the system was disorganized, leading to senior citizens slipping through the cracks. The system was revamped to ensure guardians understand their duties and responsibilities, and files are flagged to ensure they are followed up on. As an attorney who practices in this area today, Marilyn says she can see a definite difference in the system.
In the late 1980s, Marilyn began law school at the University of Miami, specializing in family law. She went on to become one of the first state-certified mediators, and one of the founding Executive Board Members of the Collaborative Lawyers of Miami-Dade County. Collaborative Law represents an alternative approach to divorce cases where both litigants agree to collaborate in the best interests of themselves and their children. They each hire a specially-trained collaborative lawyer, and meet together to resolve the issues that need to be finalized. They can also agree to save costs using the same accountant, for instance. Marilyn says Collaborative Law both saves money and helps the parties reach a more efficient outcome. She also noted that part of the participation agreement that the parties sign at the outset includes a provision that if the collaborative process breaks down, neither litigant can retain their collaborative attorney in regular litigation. Mediation is still part of her practice today.
Throughout her legal career, Marilyn has represented both men and women in divorce and child custody cases, but says that while she is always a zealous advocate for her clients, her focus is constantly on the best interest of the children. Marilyn noted that since she began practicing, there has been a big shift to “time-sharing” in child custody, and reaching more creative agreements to better meet the needs of both the children and their parents, rather than just one parent having the children every other weekend. Marilyn represented the father in one of the first “Mr. Mom” cases, which garnered national publicity and a Dateline interview. Marilyn said cases like that opened a lot of eyes, and helped shift the system away from the prior tendency to designate a primary parent to more alternative arrangements with more equal opportunities.
She added that when she writes up mediation agreements, she works with the parties to be as specific as possible, creating a “roadmap” in an attempt to avoid future conflict – for instance, including not just dates, but the time that children should be picked up and dropped off. Marilyn’s current practice combines her multifaceted background – business, social work, legal advocacy, and alternative dispute resolution. Marilyn said the one downfall of her busy practices is that she does not have enough time to travel – which is one of the reasons she would love to be on the Amazing Race!
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