Family practitioners head to the Berkshires to learn the latest in the law

Issue December 2012

The Massachusetts Bar Association's sold-out 22nd Annual Family Law Conference was held at the Cranwell Resort in Lenox at the end of October. Delivering on its high expectations, the popular event featured award presentations to state legislators, Probate and Family Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey's State of the Trial Court and panel presentations on the latest in family law.

The conference's Oct. 26 opening reception featured MBA President's Award presentations to Sen. Gale D. Candaras (D-Wilbraham) and Rep. John Fernandes (D-Milford). The legislators of honor co-chaired the task force pivotal in bringing to fruition the long-awaited, new alimony laws enacted this past spring.

"The MBA applauds their far-reaching contributions to both the legal community and the citizens of Massachusetts," said MBA President Robert L. Holloway Jr., who was joined by MBA Past President Denise Squillante to present the awards. Squillante served on the task force led by Candaras and Fernandes.

The second day of conference programming began with Carey's address. Her remarks touched upon the fiscal challenges endured by the Massachusetts Trial Court over the last five years and provided a more optimistic view of the court's current fiscal health. She also spoke to the high level of collegiality from the Massachusetts probate and family bar in the face of such fiscal constraint and its resulting challenges.

"That doesn't exist in other states," she noted.

Among the many court initiatives discussed by Carey were the recent conciliation programs in all counties, the interdisciplinary settlement conference piloted in Norfolk and Plymouth counties, and work being done to develop a screening tool for domestic violence thanks to a Violence Against Women Act grant.

Carey, who has served as chief justice for five years, announced that the Probate and Family Court's strategic planning process is well underway and that the technical changes to the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code are now up on the court's website.

"Once the kinks are worked out, I think you'll be pleased with it," she said.

The remainder of the conference featured panel discussions -- "The New Era of Alimony -- One Year After the Alimony Reform Act;" "Demystifying the GAL Process - Explanation and Preparation and Preparation for your Client;" and "Parenting Plans Focusing on the Best Interests of the Children."

The conference was planned by Marc E. Fitzgerald and Family Law Section Chair Michael I. Flores.