Lawyers Journal

Creative parenting plan solutions is focus of Family Law Conference

“Deciding, Proving and Planning for Best Interests—When Family Law Cases Affect Children” is the theme of the 17th annual Family Law Conference, being held Sept. 28 and 29 at the Cranwell Resort in Lenox.

The conference, sponsored by the MBA’s Family Law Section, is focusing on two issues that affect parenting plans in family law.

“There’s been a trend away from old-fashioned notions of custody and visitation and trying to focus on parenting plans that take into consideration the changing family dynamic,” said Veronica J. Fenton, chair of the Family Law Conference. “Working couples have differing work hours, and how they manage parental obligations, before divorce and devising creative solutions afterwards, has become an important element.”

“The other area of interest is those heart-wrenching, complicated issues such as parental alienation or complex custody problems that lawyers really struggle with,” said Fenton. “In the vast majority of cases, we’re able to devise a workable solution for all parties, but there those are difficult cases for which we are seeking new ideas and skills for how to either resolve them or litigate them.”

To complement the sessions, the conference will feature a judicial forum on parenting plans. During the session, a panel of seven Massachusetts probate and family court judges will share their views on trends in parenting plans, offer opinions on hypothetical cases and discuss information presented at the conference. Moderated by Family Law Section Chair Fern L. Frolin, the session will also discuss the ongoing work of the Massachusetts Model Parenting Plan Task Force.

Session topics for the Family Law Conference, which is co-sponsored by the Berkshire County Bar Association, include:

Clinical Experts in a Custody Case: Are They Necessary and How to Present and Challenge Clinical Expert Testimony.
• Requesting or opposing requests for GAL’s in custody cases
• The GAL Report: admissibility of the report; challenges to the expert’s qualifications
• Psychological testing

Special Financial Planning for Special Needs Children
• Child support after age 23 for disabled children
• Separation agreements provisions that protect financial resources for disabled children
• Divorce and Medicaid eligibility
• Special needs trusts and pooled trusts

Parent Alienation Syndrome: Will Expert Testimony Survive Daubert?
• Is Parent Alienation Syndrome (PAS)
• Understanding Daubert
• Admission of evidence

Hot Off the Press: Category E GAL Standards.
• New standards for evaluative (clinical) guardians
• What they mean and how to use them

Judicial Forum on Parenting Plans.
• Judicial viewpoints on custody and parenting
• Hypothetical fact patterns
• Evolving case law
• Session review
• The Massachusetts Model Parenting Plan Task Force

MBA President David W. White Jr. will present opening remarks at a welcoming reception and dinner on Friday, Sept. 28. In addition, Marsha Kline Pruett, professor for the School of Social Work at Smith College, will deliver a luncheon keynote address titled “The Father-Child Connection: A Two-Way Street” on Sept. 29.

To register, contact MBA Member Services at (617) 338-0530 or (877) 676-6500. Registration information is also available online at

©2017 Massachusetts Bar Association