Family Law attorneys and professionals whose specialties
intersect with family law are invited to attend the 21st Annual
Family Law Conference at Chatham Bars Inn in Chatham. The two-day
event begins with an education session and cocktail reception on
Friday evening, Oct. 28, with the educational programming
continuing all day Saturday.
The seminar is sponsored by the MBA's Family Law Section
Council, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Chapter of the
American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers -- a distinguishing
aspect of the event. The opening reception is sponsored by the
Massachusetts Chapter of the American Association of Matrimonial
"The collaboration of the academy is a real asset to the
conference," says conference co-chair Michael I. Flores, of Michael
I. Flores LLC in Orleans. The academy comprises family law
attorneys who are admitted based on a rigorous review, exam and
thorough vetting process by a national body, and must have between
five and 10 years of practice experience, dependent on what
percentage of their practice is family law. "The academy fellows in
Massachusetts are luminaries in the practice. They've all been
involved in high-profile cases that have changed matrimonial and
This conference provides attorneys a unique opportunity to meet
judges, socialize with colleagues and update skills, while learning
techniques and gaining insights from panel members consisting of
judges and legal experts from a broad range of specialties. Among
the half-dozen judges on the faculty is Probate and Family Court
Chief Justice Paula M. Carey.
This year's topics include: Developments in Family Law;
Defining, Finding and Allocating Income in Support Cases; Removal;
Alimony Reform; and, Parent Alienation. Significant cases to be
discussed are Ansin v. Craven-Ansin; Halpern v. Rabb;
JS v. CC, and several rule 1:28 cases.
The alimony reform session, beginning at 4:30 preceding Friday's
cocktail reception, "should be extremely lively," Flores notes. It
will focus on the new alimony reform bill, which was signed into
law Sept. 26, and how it might transform alimony cases in
Massachusetts. Proposed changes to the law include: taking into
account the length of the dissolved marriage; cessation of alimony
payments when the recipient is cohabiting with someone else;
assessment of the ability to pay; and allowing the cessation of
alimony payments when the paying party retires.
Marc E. Fitzgerald of Casner & Edwards LLP marks his third
year of involvement with the conference and his second turn at
co-chairing it. He's also in his second and last year as chair of
the Family Law Section Council. Fitzgerald and Flores concur on the
utility of the program for non-law professionals in real estate,
social work, therapy and the state Department of Children and
A Saturday panel will examine what defines income as support for
the purposes of alimony, including imputed income -
effectively, what a person is capable of earning.
The panel on parental alienation -- cases in which divorced
parents attempt to alienate the child against the other
parent - will include a therapist, a judge and two
practitioners. It will instruct how to define parental alienation
and what to do when it is alleged.
Removal cases are considered by judges to be the most difficult
cases to decide, Fitzgerald says. Parental mobility in a job-scarce
economy may come at the cost of a parent-child relationship with
the non-custodial parent.
An example of the connection between family law and the economy
is the approach to the fate of the family home. While the family
home is still considered the most important marital asset in many
instances, it can now become a liability due to the liquidity
problem created by the inability to refinance, and by uncertain
prospects for future income on the part of one or both of the
"Family law is so much wrapped up in how families operate in
connection with the greater economy and the rest of the culture,
that family law is evolving much faster than other areas of the law
out of necessity," says Flores.
Many practitioners don't hold themselves out or think of
themselves as family law specialists, but they do handle a
significant amount of divorces, he adds. As a result, those
practitioners have to stay current on the trends in family law.