Nearly 200 family law practitioners and members of the Probate
and Family bench settled into Chatham Bars Inn on the Cape Oct. 28
and 29 for the 21st Annual Family Law Conference.
"This was a record crowd," MBA Director of Membership and Programs
Lisa A. Ferrara said. She attributed the high interest level to
alimony reform, but also to the comprehensive nature of the
conference's content. Ferrara explained that programming was
thoughtfully pulled together by conference co-chairs Marc E.
Fitzgerald and Michael I. Flores.
The Friday, Oct. 28, program featured a panel that highlighted
recent developments in family law over the last year, as well as a
"We are delighted to bring our popular Family Law Conference to
the Cape, not only for the destination, but to be closer to the
loyal members in Southeastern Massachusetts," MBA President Richard
P. Campbell said at the evening reception, which was sponsored by
the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial
Saturday's programming opened with an update on the Trial Court
delivered by Probate and Family Court Chief Justice Paula M.
The first portion of the chief's remarks centered on the
challenges resulting from the compounded budget cuts. "Security and
other staffing is at a crisis level,"
Carey also spoke of the success of many programs available thanks
to outside resources attained from the Probate and Family Court
Grant Committee. Two programs include an innovative
parent-education program for non-married parents and a
client-centered project that enlists youth mental health
professionals and attorneys.
In addition, Carey spoke about carefully tracking the impact of
shortening hours in select Probate and Family courts. As a result
of courts closing early to accommodate better administrative
follow-through, "significantly more cases are docketed and
scanned," she said. In one week, 11,000 documents were
She also spoke of the issues and challenges associated with nearly
254,000 pro se litigants that appeared last year in the
Probate and Family Court. She concluded her remarks on a high note,
referencing the "awesome responsibilities" placed upon the Probate
and Family Court staff, bench and bar.
The highly anticipated alimony panel, "What Alimony Reform Will
Mean for Your Clients and Your Practice," featured Carey, MBA Past
President Denise Squillante, the Hon. Peter C. DiGangi and Fern
Frolin, past chair of the MBA Family Law Section. It was moderated
by Bryna Klevan of Klevan & Klevan.
The panelists walked conference attendees through how attorneys
should prepare for the March 2012 enactment, often referring to
conference materials and other tools that explain the differences
between the old and new law.
According to DiGangi, judges are already accepting agreements that
reference the new alimony law. "No sense in drafting something that
will be obsolete in four months," he said. In addition to adding
general guidance and predictability, the reform provides
tools for us in pre-trial conference," DiGangi
"This is a huge policy change," said Frolin, who explained that
the new law encourages alimony recipients to think more about
"I think it will help settle cases, I really do," said Carey, who
reminded participants that although the new law's language adds
more predictability, there is still room for argument.
"If you are not getting calls about alimony reform, you will,"
Other panels presented on Saturday covered defining income in
support cases, removal and parent alienation.