Family Law Conference focuses on alimony reform, representing children

Issue December 2014

The 24th Annual Family Law Conference took place on Oct. 17-18 at the Chatham Bars Inn. The conference featured a number of excellent panelists and was attended by more than 150 family law practitioners and judges. In addition, Probate and Family Court Chief Justice Angela M. Ordoñez delivered the annual address on the state of the court.

With a packed programming schedule that began on Friday afternoon, conference attendees were treated to five substantive sessions featuring judges from the Probate and Family Court across the commonwealth.

As was the case at last year's conference, alimony reform was at the forefront of conference discussion. Kimberley J. Joyce of Lee & Rivers LLP in Boston moderated a panel that included Fern Frolin of Grindle Robinson LLP, and David H. Lee of Lee & Rivers LLP, who discussed the complexity of the issues implicated in the Alimony Reform Act.

Afternoon programming included sessions on representing children, as well as an interactive discussion on the child support guidelines led by Judge Anne M Geoffrion and Judge Anthony R. Nesi. Attendees also heard a keynote address from recently appointed Appeals Court Justice Amy Lynn Blake. Blake was a family law attorney in private practice for 16 years before becoming a judge and was named a "Distinguished Jurist" in 2013 by the Massachusetts Association of Women Lawyers.

The first day of the conference concluded with a welcome reception at the Beach House Grill on the edge of Aunt Lydia's Cove. MBA President-elect Robert W. Harnais delivered opening remarks saying, "There is no better place to discuss the important issues of the day than here with your colleagues at the MBA's Annual Family Law Conference, which is always one of the highlights of the MBA's year."

Ordoñez started day two of the Family Law Conference with the traditional "State of the Probate and Family Court" address. She thanked conference attendees for the work they do day in and day out. Now more than a year into her term as chief justice, Ordoñez talked about the creation of a pilot program designed to settle cases where the majority of the contested issues have already been resolved. Ordoñez also reminded everyone about the importance of taking time off from the demands of work.

Saturday programming included panel on navigating a DCF investigation and substance abuse and it's affect on parenting plans.

This year's conference was chaired by Massachusetts Bar Association Family Law Section Chair Jennifer R. Clapp, and planned by a conference committee, which included Lloyd D. Godson, Kimberley J. Joyce, Amy K Vaughn and Lynn M. Isaman.