Lawyers e-Journal

Thursday, Nov. 12, 2009
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The Hon. Randy J. Kaplan, Family Law Section Council member Marc E. Fitzgerald and accountant Marc Bello round out the conference with a "Federal Tax Issues in Family Law" panel.

Linda A. Ouellette is flanked by (left) judge James V. Menno and (right) Paul G. Farrell as they present "Issues of Interstate Custody." The panel was moderated by Amy T. Sollins.

Family and Probate Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey and MBA Family Law Co-Chair Veronica J. Fenton.

This year's Family Law Conference was held at the Chatham Bars Inn.

First Justice Geoffrey A. Wilson, Regina M. Hurley, conference co-chair Thomas J. Barbar, Wendy J. Hickey and Judge John C. Stevens III (ret.) prepare for their "The Hague Convention and Issues of International Custody" panel.

Moderator Theresa B. Ramos is joined by Nima R. Eshghi of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders and Maura T. Healey from the Office of the Attorney General in Boston. The trio presented "DOMA: What Hurdles DOMA Place in the Way of Same-Sex Married Couples and Those Who are Divorcing."

Photos by Tricia Oliver.

Family Law Conference delivers

On Saturday, Nov. 7, the MBA Family Law Section hosted its 19th annual conference at the beautiful Chatham Bars Inn on Cape Cod. The event included a networking reception on the evening of Friday, Nov. 6 and a day-long series of educational panel presentations on Saturday, Nov. 7.

Saturday's programming kicked off with Chief Justice of Probate and Family Court Paula M. Carey delivering the "State of the Probate and Family Court." "We cannot compromise due process because of budget constraints," said Carey, who spoke to the court's financial challenges throughout her 30-minute address.

She spoke to the newly implemented Uniform Probate Code in Massachusetts, resulting from key MBA-sponsored legislation signed into law in January by Gov. Deval Patrick. According to Carey, this measure simplifies and improves Massachusetts probate and trust law. Carey described the UPC as "preserving the liberty and interests of some of the most vulnerable citizens" and explained that great lengths have been made in planning for its implementation, including a designated subcommittee on the issue and tapping the expertise of other states with similar legislation.

She spoke to the court's efforts to expand upon pilot efforts of Limited Assistance Representation in Norfolk, Suffolk and Hampden counties.

"Good things happen in our court," said Carey as she spoke of the Probate and Family Court's outreach efforts with the community. She touched upon informational sessions held in area community colleges and high schools as a way to "demystify" the process of the court system. She also spoke to the work of Associate Justice Angela M. Ordoñez in getting off the ground a tiered mentor program, administered by the MBA and involving judges, attorneys, as well as law, undergraduate and high school students.

She also thanked the group of volunteers who worked on the task force to establish new child support guidelines. She specifically praised the efforts of attorneys Fern Frolin and Marilynne Ryan for their "extraordinary effort" in the process. She also commended Chief Justice for Administration and Management Robert A. Mulligan for his involvement and input during this project.

In addition, Carey explained that a Scheduling Task Force has recently issued a report, which is out for comment from judges at this point.

She then devoted a good portion of her remarks to the "white elephant in the room," or the budget crisis with which the Massachusetts court system is faced. Carey described the crisis as "very real" and added, "we all need to work together to deal with this."  

Despite drastic budget cuts in the trial courts, Carey said "our caseload has increased," noting that 158,000 cases annually have grown to 165,000 cases in the last fiscal year. Carey is working to develop a plan to prioritize cases.

She called on the bar to help advocate for the courts amid the budget crisis. "If there ever was a time when we need you to help, the time is now," said Carey, urging the lawyers in attendance to call upon their legislators to thwart further cuts to the third branch of government.

Carey's remarks were followed by four highly informative panels including:

  • Issues of Interstate Custody;
  • The Hague Convention and Issues of International Custody;
  • DOMA: What Hurdles Does DOMA Place in the Way of Same-Sex Married Couples and Those Who are Divorcing; and
  • Federal Tax Issues in Family Law.

The conference, attended by more than 140 attorneys from across the commonwealth, was co-chaired by Family Law Section Co-chairs Thomas J. Barbar and Veronica J. Fenton.

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