The 23rd Annual Family Law Conference took place on Nov. 1 and
Nov. 2, at the Chatham Bars Inn. This year's conference was
co-chaired by Family Law Section Chair Michael I. Flores and Vice
Chair Jennifer R. Clapp, and was attended by more than 200 family
law practitioners and judges. The conference featured a number of
excellent panelists and the inaugural address on the state of the
court by Probate and Family Court Chief Justice Angela M.
On Nov. 1, Flores welcomed attendees to the conference and
introduced the first group of panelists, who discussed e-discovery
issues. Panelist Timothy J. Conlon noted the "new net" is more
cloud-based and said technological advances lead to a tremendous
amount of data that can be retrieved by either party in litigation.
Tips for acquiring this information and effective client
communication were provided. David Sun presented appropriate ways
to select technological experts, and the differences between them,
noting that if one's "case is a car wreck, [you] find a mechanic to
put it back together - that's the type of expert you want to
retrieve electronic information: the 'computer forensic.'" Other
session highlights included a discussion of social media
surveillance, forensic collection, chain of custody and privacy
Maureen C. McBrien began the second session by discussing the
implications of the new alimony and child support statutes and
updates to the law. The discussion included common household and
co-habitation language, as well as types of relief that can be
obtained. Additionally, Judge James V. Menno cautioned attendees on
their use of the "percentage of parenting time" when conducting a
child support proceeding.
The first day of the conference concluded with a welcome reception
at The Beach House Grill on the edge of Aunt Lydia's Cove.
Ordoñez started day two of the family law conference with the
traditional "State of the Probate and Family Court" address.
Ordoñez thanked conference attendees for the countless number of
volunteer hours family law practitioners give, saying, "There is no
greater group who give back to the bar. Thank you.
"I feel fortunate to be Chief Justice at this point in time," said
Ordoñez. "I have one mission: justice with dignity and
Ordoñez's four goals for the court are to reduce delays, use
technology to enhance access to the court, increase uniformity of
process, and increase fathers' engagement in children's lives. She
concluded her address by reminding participants to show civility
and courtesy to one another, as there is no room for incivility
when helping families.
An engaging panel discussion on inheritance and trust issues
followed Ordoñez's keynote address, which was moderated by Susan
Huettner. Joining Huettner was MBA President-elect Marsha V.
Kazarosian, Patricia O'Connell and Judge Arthur C. Ryley. The panel
reviewed the importance of dividing and identifying assets and
factors in distributing those assets fairly and reasonably.
"Work with your brother or sister counsel to get a statement of
undisputed facts in order to determine what trusts and what money
went where," said Ryley. "This is helpful to the court and
beneficial to both parties."
The day concluded with a nuts and bolts presentation on how to
write effective findings. Joined by Judge Robert A. Scandurra,
Judge David G. Sacks and Judge Katherine A. Field, Denise
Fitzgerald led a substantive discussion on the kind of information
practitioners should provide judges to help them make
determinations regarding alimony, child support and the value of
the marital estate.