Stephen W. Sessums
Stephen W. Sessums is a graduate of the University of Florida Law School, where he was editor in chief of the Law Review, president of Florida Blue Key and graduated number one in his class. Steve has continuously held the AV Preeminent® rating from Martindale Hubbell since 2016.
The AV® Peer Review Rating serves as an objective indicator that a lawyer has demonstrated ethical standards and professional ability. This honor is a reflection of an attorney’s skill, experience, integrity, and overall professional excellence. By earning an AV rating by Martindale Hubbell, an attorney is part of a select group of Tampa area lawyers recognized for their legal abilities and professional ethical standards.
Steve’s dedication to professionalism is evidenced by his participation and leadership in local, statewide, and national bar associations and organizations. Nationally, he became a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers shortly after the Florida Chapter’s creation and was one of the founding Fellows in the American College of Family Trial Lawyers. On a statewide level, Steve is one of a select few to serve two consecutive terms as Chair of the Family Law Section of The Florida Bar and was in the first group of attorneys to become Board Certified in Marital and Family Law by The Florida Bar. He also helped write the Bounds of Advocacy, a joint publication of the Florida Chapter of the AAML and the Family Law Section of The Florida Bar, which establishes ethical ideals for family law attorneys. Locally, Steve is a Past President of the Hillsborough County Bar Association and the Hillsborough County Bar Foundation.
Numerous organizations have recognized and celebrated Steve’s distinguished legal career. Among the most recent are the National Fellow of the Year award from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the Service to the Community award from the Florida Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, and the Herbert G. Goldburg Memorial Award from the Trial Lawyers Section of the Hillsborough County Bar Association.
Steve’s dedication to outstanding service to the community is not limited to his law practice. In 2017 Steve and his wife, Diana, received the Amy Shimburg Volunteer of the Year award from Meals on Wheels of Tampa, an organization in which they have faithfully served since 2007.
Professional Associations and Memberships:
The American College of Family Trial Lawyers
- Diplomat Emeritus, 2013 – Present
- Diplomat, 1993 – 2013
American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
- President, Florida Chapter, 1985 – 1987
- Chair, Bounds of Advocacy Revision Committee, 1998 – 2001
- National Board of Directors, 1985 – 1988
- Chair, Bounds of Advocacy Committee, 1987 – 1991
- Chair, Client Relations Committee, 1991 – 1994
- Fellow, 1978 – 2013
Family Law Section of The Florida Bar
- Chair, Bounds of Advocacy Committee, 2002 – 2004
- Section Chair, 1981 – 1982, 1982 – 1983
- Member, 1973 – 2012, 2016 – Present
The Florida Bar
- Member, 1959 – Present
- Member, Family Law Rules Committee, 1993 – 1998
- Member, The Florida Bar/Bench Commission, 1990 – 1992
- Chair, Certification for Marital and Family Law, 1987 – 1988
Supreme Court Commission on Matrimonial Law
- Member, 1982 – 1987
- Chair, Subcommittee on Procedure and Support Enforcement
Supreme Court Committee on Rules for Mediation and Arbitration
- Member, 1987 – 1987
Florida Judicial Council, Family Court Sub-Committee
- Member, 1989 – 1990
Hillsborough County Bar Association
- President, 1977 – 1978
- Honorary Member, 2008 – Present
- Member, 1961 – 2013
Hillsborough County Bar Foundation
- Emeritus Trustee, 2017 – Present
- President, 2004 – 2005
- Trustee, 2002 – 2013
Bay Area Trial Lawyers Association
- President, 1967
Stetson University College of Law
- Adjunct Professor of Law, 1984 – 1988
University of Florida Law School
- Interim Assistant Professor of Law, 1959
- “The Bounds of Advocacy – its Beginning and Evolution,” Commentator, Family Law Section, The Florida Bar, Summer 2016.
- Author, with Judge John Lenderman, of Chapter 1, Professionalism and Ethics, Dissolution of Marriage Manual, Florida Bar, 2006.
- Family Law Superstars, “How Family Law Should be Practiced in the 21st Century,: Family Law Section, The Florida Bar, 2000.
- “Ethics and Professionalism” American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Annual Institute 1999.
- “How to Take and Defend Depositions” Pennsylvania Bar Association, Family Law Section Summer Meeting 1996.
- “Preparation of Experts and Witnesses for Trial” American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Seventh Annual Institute, 1995.
- “Ethics, Professionalism and Attorney’s Fees”, Master Seminar, The Florida Bar, June 1994.
- “Adversarial Cooperation: A Concept that Works”, 9 Journal of American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 1993.
- “Organizing the Family Law Practice”, Family Law Section, The Nevada Bar, 1992.
- “Ethical Considerations for the Matrimonial Law Lawyer”, American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Twelfth Annual
- Institute and Colorado State Bar, Family Law Section, 1990.
- “The Paper Chase: Practical Tips on How to Collect, Control, Organize and Use Financial Documents in Divorce Cases”, Florida Academy of Trial Lawyers, 1989.
- Case Law Update: Eleventh Annual Institute, American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 1989.
- “Divorce and Antenuptial Agreements, Drafting and Enforceability”, Professional Educational Systems Seminar, 1989.
- “Organizing the Family Law Practice”, American Journal of Family Law, Vol. II, No. 4, Winter 1988.
- “Organizing a Family Law Practice”, National Meeting, American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 1988.
- “Equitable Distribution in Dissolution of Marriage: Consideration of Contingent Tax Liabilities of Assets in Valuation and Distribution.”, with Melvyn B. Frumkes, The Florida Bar Journal, April and May, 1987, Vol LX, No. 4 and 5.
- “Adversarial Cooperation: A Modern Litigation Necessity”, The Florida Bar Journal, May, 1985.
- Moderator, “The Skilled Trial Judge’s Observations about Matrimonial Litigation”, Sixth Annual Institute, American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 1984.
- “Putting the Spouse Through – A Good or Bad Investment?” (with Laura L. Sessums), The Florida Bar Journal, June, 1984.
- “Case Law Update”, Fifth Annual Institute, American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 1983.
- “Equitable Distribution and Its Effect on Property Acquired by Gift or Inheritance.”, The Florida Bar Journal, April, 1983.
- “Equitable Distribution, As of What Date is Property Included and Valued?”, The Florida Bar Journal, March, 1982.
- “Dissolution of Marriage Trial: The Bench and Bar’s Viewpoint”, 1981.
- “Family Law Practice Techniques from Seasoned Practitioners”, 1981.
Meals on Wheels of Tampa
- Amy Shimburg Volunteer of the Year Award, 2017
- Volunteer, 2007 – Present
Hillsborough Educational Association
- Volunteer & Mentor, 2011 – Present
- Chair, Take Stock in Children Committee, 2017 – 2019
Northside Community Mental Health Center, Inc.
- Founding Director
- President, 1982
- Director, 1975 – 1995
United Way Suncoast
- Executive Committee, 1974 – 1980
- Vice President for Planning, 1974 – 1976
- Chair, Professional Service Division, 1973 – 1974
American Red Cross of Tampa Bay
- President, 1970 – 1972
- Disaster Committee Chair, 1966 – 1969
- South Florida Div. Advisory Council Chair, 1971 – 1972
- South Florida Division Advisory Council, 1970 – 1972
- Member, National Resolutions Committee, 1972 – 1975
- Centennial Celebration, Chair
- Committee on Commemorative Materials
- Subcommittee on Planned Giving, Southeastern Area
Hillsborough County Public Schools
- Chair, Bi-Racial Committee, 1971 – 1972
University of South Florida
- Member, Board of Directors of University Chapel Fellowship, 1963 – 1975
Children’s Cancer Center
- Member, Board of Directors, 1980 – 1983
Southwest Florida Blood Bank
- Director, 1979 – 1983
The Easter Seal Society for Crippled Children and Adults of Hillsborough County [Entity dissolved 1991]
- Past Vice President
- Past Member, Board of Directors
Honors and Awards:
- Rated AV Preeminent® by Martindale Hubbell
- 1983 – 2008, Listed in original publication of The Best Lawyers in America, Nafier and Smith [1983 was the inaugural publication year]
- 2008, Herbert G. Goldburg Memorial Award from the Trial Lawyers Section of the Hillsborough County Bar Association for Distinguished Legal Career
- 2006, Lifetime Achievement Award, Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
- 2004, Service to the Community Award from the Florida Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts
- 2004 – 2005, Legal Elite in Family Law by Florida Trend Magazine
- 2000, National Fellow of the Year by the American Academy if Matrimonial Lawyers
- 1993, Received the Board Member of the Year award from the Florida Council for Community Mental Health
- 1987, Listed as one of the 43 of the nation’s top divorce lawyers in National Law Journal, Vol. 10, No. 10
- Doctor of Jurisprudence, 1959
University of Florida Levin College of Law
with honors, Class Rank #1
Editor-in-Chief University of Florida Law Review,
President Florida Blue Key Leadership Fraternity
- Bachelor of Arts, 1956
University of Florida
- Florida, 1959