'Problem solvers' to explore latest developments at Family Law Annual Conference

Issue October 2013

Family law attorneys and judges are, at their core, problem solvers devoted to unraveling the most intractable intra-family dilemmas. It can be exhausting work for the most committed. As a respite for harried practitioners, the Massachusetts Bar Association's Family Law Section Council hosts the 23rd Annual Family Law Conference. At the conference, judges, attorneys and other professionals socialize, learn the latest developments in this multi-faceted area of the law and exchange ideas.

The conference will be held at the Chatham Bars Inn in Chatham, beginning at 1 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 1, and ending at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 2. Responding to feedback from prior conferences, the 2013 conference begins on Friday afternoon and ends with a luncheon on Saturday. Four substantive programs, each two hours long, are planned. Unchanged is the conference's Friday evening cocktail reception, which is always a convivial affair.

Friday will begin with a program exploring how to obtain electronic evidence and how to get it admitted into evidence. "With the introduction of electronic mail, instant messaging, texting and, of course, the explosion of social media, our society's methods of communication has changed radically over the last 10 years," says Conference Co-chair Michael I. Flores, of Michael I. Flores LLC in Orleans. "As a result, family law attorneys and judges grapple with the relevance, authenticity and admissibility of electronically-conveyed information."

Friday's second session will focus on the relationship between child support and alimony. "In 2011 and 2013, there were changes to the alimony statute and the Child Support Guidelines," explained Maureen McBrien, the session's moderator. "Our panel will examine these changes, how child support and alimony intersect when establishing and modifying support orders and how judges are approaching support issues in child support and alimony cases."

Chief Justice Angela M. Ordoñez will deliver the keynote remarks Saturday morning, giving the traditional "State of the Probate and Family Court" Address. It is Chief Justice Ordoñez's first year at the helm of the Probate and Family Court, and her speech will offer audience members a glimpse of where she intends to steer the court during her tenure.

Saturday's programs will commence with a panel discussion about allocating gifts and inheritances when the distribution of the marital estate is in dispute. The audience will hear from judges and lawyers on the "best practices" for litigating these issues where statutes and case law do not provide clear guidelines and the trial court retains considerable discretion over the disposition of this special category of assets.

The conference's final session will be a "dos and don'ts" presentation offering practical tips on how to draft effective post-trial findings. The session will be led by a panel of Probate and Family Court judges who will discuss what each looks for in the proposed findings and rationales received in the wake of trial.

Conference Co-chair Jennifer Clapp said, "This conference, like the others, will give practitioners and judges the opportunity to expand their understanding of current issues in the company of other committed problem solvers."