Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Wicked Good Parenting Resource

Although many parents in and around Boston are already familiar with it, I want to make a plug for the free monthly publication Parents and Kids Magazine, and its parent site (pun intended), Wicked Local Parents (http://www.wickedlocalparents.com/). I was just looking through its recent articles online, including articles on ideas for parents in the coming holidays and New Year's, when I found an article quoting me as a custodial parent (see my last blog entry). Then I realized I have yet to add this great site to my blogroll, and to mention this resource here on my blog. Well then, here you have it.

The magazine is really well written, by and for Massachusetts parents, and is very helpfully available for free at schools, daycare centers, libraries, pharmacies and other stores throughout the greater Boston area. Take a look at it. You might just get an idea of something to do during the holidays, or learn something new that could benefit you and your kids.

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Single Custodial Dads

I just came across this article, The Life of a Single Dad, in which I am quoted, quite extensively, and not just as a divorce and family law attorney this time, but rather, primarily at least, as a single, custodial father. The article was published in the award-winning local Parents and Kids Magazine back at the end of May, but I have just now gotten around to finding it today. It's a good story about the interesting and small but growing demographic to which I belong - single custodial fathers - and some of the common challenges this particular group of parents faces.

EXCERPT, "THE LIFE OF A SINGLE DAD" (PARENTS AND KIDS MAGAZINE):
....In the past 40 years, the number of single fathers raising their children has swelled from 400,000 to more than 2.5 million, according to the U.S. census bureau. But, according to several single dads in the area, they are still few and far enough between to raise eyebrows when they appear at playgrounds with their kids and no wife in sight.

....

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Madonna Divorce Settlement - It'll Be A Big "Payout" to Guy Ritchie

News was just released of the Madonna divorce settlement, under which Guy Ritchie will take around $76 Million as his part of the couple's marital assets division. For more, see the Guardian's report, Madonna divorce deal 'worth £50m' to husband Guy Ritchie | guardian.co.uk, and look at People Magazine's web story, Rep: Madonna to Pay Guy Ritchie $76 Million in Divorce Settlement - People.com.

This will be one of the biggest "payouts" in celebrity cases, and will probably be the biggest one going from a high-earning female star to her husband. Also, according to some reports, it is believed the two parents will share residence of their children. Apparently, there had been hope the divorce would be settled amicably, but that was not really the case, as John Bolch points out on his blog here: Family Lore: Not So Amicable.

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cathy Young on Gender Gaps, Gender Differences and Competition

Cathy Young is back! For quite some time, I have patiently followed The Y Files, the blog by former Boston Globe columnist Cathy Young, one of the most fair minded, intelligent, reasonable, and important commentators on gender issues today, and author of what is in my humble view the best book of the last ten years on gender issues, hands down. (If it doesn't sound as if my view is very "humble" that's probably because I have read a lot of books and other writings on gender issues, by radical feminists and radical men, left and right and everything in between.)


The book, Ceasefire!: Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality, which I have discussed here previously, is a book which is as relevant today as it was when written in 1999, and still way under-appreciated.

Unfortunately, Cathy Young had recently gone on some sort of writing hiatus.

But now she is back, with two very insightful posts during the last few days. If you don't already have her on your blog roll, or haven't already subscribed to her feed, go to her blog and do it now. Here are the recent posts:

The Y Files: The paradoxes of gender gaps

The Y Files: More about gender differences and competition


For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Men As Caregivers

There was an interesting blog post by Leanna Hamill at the Massachusetts Estate Planning and Elder Law Blog yesterday commenting on a recent report that more men have in recent years taken on caregiving roles for aging parents or other relatives: Massachusetts Estate Planning and Elder Law: More Men Taking Over the Caregiving Role. It's interesting to see that just as men have become more active in recent years in caring for children, they are also becoming more active in caring for aging parents as well.


EXCERPT, MASSACHUSETTS ESTATE PLANNING & ELDER LAW BLOG:


The image of a caregiver for an aging parent or relative is usually a woman in her 40's or 50's who is raising her own children, probably working outside the home, and then trying to care for her aging loved one at the same time. But according to a recent article in the New York Times, more men are serving as caregivers than ever before.

[Quoting the New York Times - link directly above:] "The Alzheimer’s Association and the National Alliance for Care- giving estimate that men make up nearly 40 percent of family care providers now, up from 19 percent in a 1996 study by the Alzheimer’s Association. About 17 million men are caring for an adult.

Often they are overshadowed by their female counterparts and faced with employers, friends, support organizations and sometimes even parents who view care-giving as an essentially female role. Male caregivers are more likely to say they feel unprepared for the role and become socially isolated, and less likely to ask for help."
....

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Florida Trial Judge Rules That State's Ban on Gay Adoptions Is Unconstitutional

Today in the news there was yet another interesting development in the world of gay rights, this one in Florida: Florida ban on gay adoptions ruled unconstitutional - MiamiHerald.com.

EXCERPT FROM MIAMI HERALD ARTICLE OF TODAY:
BY CAROL MARBIN MILLER (
cmarbin@MiamiHerald.com)

A Miami-Dade circuit judge Tuesday declared Florida's 30-year-old ban on gay adoption unconstitutional, allowing a North Miami man to adopt two foster kids he has raised since 2004.

In a 53-page order that sets the stage for what could become a constitutional showdown, Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman permitted 47-year-old Frank Gill to adopt the 4- and 8-year-old boys he and his partner have raised since just before Christmas four years ago. A child abuse investigator had asked Gill to care for the boys temporarily; they were never able to return to their birth parents.

''This is the forum where we try to heal children, find permanent families for them so they can get another chance at what every child should know and feel from birth, and go on to lead productive lives,'' Lederman said in court before releasing the order. ``We pray for them to thrive, but that is a word we rarely hear in dependency court.''

''These children are thriving; it is uncontroverted,'' the judge added.

Moments after Lederman released the ruling, attorneys for Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum announced they would appeal the decision to the Third District Court of Appeal in Miami.

.....


For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

California, Arizona and Florida Join Long List of States Banning Gay Marriage

Two more states besides California - namely, Arizona and Florida - have joined the list of nearly 30 U.S. states banning gay marriage, as the result of last week's elections. Although California still has civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, most of the states with bans, including Arizona and Florida, do not have civil unions, domestic partnerships, or any kind of recognition of these relationships. For a basic overview, see this New York Times article about the three state bans, and also read this from the New Hampshire Family Law Blog.

It seems the Northeast, and particularly New England, is exceptional. Massachusetts and Connecticut are now the only states sanctioning gay marriage. Vermont and New Hampshire have civil unions and Maine also has a degree of recognition of same-sex relationships through domestic partnerships. New York recognizes same-sex marriages formed in other states, and New Jersey also has civil unions. Outside this, our very tolerant area of the country, only the West Coast states have some formal, legal recognition of gay and lesbian couples: California still has civil unions, while Oregon and Washington have domestic partnerships.

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

California Electorate Voted to Ban Gay Marriage; Legislators Try Hail Mary Pass to California Supreme Court

California voters approved the gay marriage ban in that state, by voting for Proposition 8, during their election last week. Meanwhile, Democratic legislators are asking the California Supreme Court to void Proposition 8, in what the manager of the Proposition 8 campaign derides as a "Hail Mary" pass: Democratic legislators ask state Supreme Court to void Prop. 8 - Los Angeles Times. Some gay and lesbian couples have already gotten married in California, between the time the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage and the time when the gay marriage ban was approved last week. Their future is unclear.

Meanwhile, it is likely this development will improve the tourism prospects for Massachusetts and Connecticut, as these New England states, now the only states currently sanctioning gay marriage, should have a monopoly on the gay destination wedding market in the U.S.

EXCERPT FROM LA TIMES ARTICLE, BY DAN MORAIN, 11/11/08:

Reporting from Sacramento -- Forty-three Democratic legislators, including leaders of the California Senate and Assembly, filed a brief Monday urging the California Supreme Court to void Proposition 8.

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata and incoming President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg signed the friend of the court brief, filed with the state Supreme Court.

No Republican legislator signed the petition, though Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, denounced the anti-gay marriage measure over the weekend.

With almost 11 million ballots tallied, Proposition 8 had 52.3% of the vote to 47.7%. Although many ballots remain to be counted, the 500,000-vote spread is viewed as insurmountable.

"The citizens of California rely on the Legislature and the courts to safeguard against unlawful discrimination by temporary, and often short-lived, majorities," the legislators said in the document, written by attorneys at the firm Gibson, Dunn &Crutcher.

"This is a Hail Mary, no question about it," said Frank Schubert, manager of the Proposition 8 campaign.

....

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Friday, November 7, 2008

New & Improved Child Support Guidelines To Go Into Effect on January 1

New child support guidelines have just been promulgated, and they will go into effect in Massachusetts on January 1, 2009. See the Massachusetts Court System Press Release - November 5, 2008. I am one of the many attorneys, litigants, and other concerned citizens, who have long complained before that our current guidelines are not appropriate for our times, particularly as they are not precise and comprehensive enough to cover enough of our families.

The new guidelines, for the first time, will address some of the longstanding concerns many of us have had. For one, I see the task force has for the first time made it clear how to determine child support when there is joint physical custody. It is good to see that the task force this time included Fathers and Families founder Ned Holstein, as well as many of the usual participants (attorneys and judges and other family law establishment people). After I have time to give it a complete review, I will post my analysis. But right away, after a quick scan, I can already say it is a wonderful improvement over the guidelines that are currently in effect. Have a read for yourself and tell me what you think: http://www.mass.gov/courts/childsupport/guidelines.pdf.

Excerpt from Press Release of Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court:

Chief Justice for Administration & Management Robert A. Mulligan today announced the promulgation of revised Child Support Guidelines to be effective on January 1, 2009, based on a comprehensive review of the guidelines by the Child Support Guidelines Task Force he appointed in 2006. The 12-member Task Force was chaired by Probate and Family Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey.

The report recommended significant, broad-based changes intended to make the guidelines more simple, clear, comprehensive and consistent with economic and societal changes of the last two decades. The report of the Task Force, available at www.mass.gov/courts/childsupport, explains the rationale behind the guidelines to assist attorneys and litigants in understanding and using them.

The recommendations include provisions that place greater value and emphasis on the involvement of both parents in the lives of children; consider the increase in health insurance costs and the requirement of mandatory health insurance in Massachusetts; provide greater guidance relative to when a child support order should be modified; and set forth specific deviation factors for deviation from the guidelines. These guidelines will apply to the circumstances of many more families in the Commonwealth.

....


For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

More On The Big Heist

Beat the Press Archive The American Prospect: "The Post Misleads Readers on the Bailout, Yet Again" :

Many school teachers, autoworkers, and plumbers do not like the idea of paying higher taxes so that the incompetent executives at major financial institutions can continue to collect their multi-million dollar paychecks. But, that is exactly what is happening as Congress voted to "spread the wealth around" by redistributing tax dollars from ordinary workers to some of the very richest people in the county.


Yeah, we know about the limits on executive compensation. But these limits are a joke, that's what all the experts said. People who read the Washington Post know that the limits on executive compensation are a joke because the Post ran a very good article (after the passage of the bailout) telling readers that the limits on compensation are a joke.


Since everyone knows that the limits on executive compensation are a joke, why did the Post tell readers in an article on the potential bailout of insurers that the banks who received government money "also must accept limits on executive compensation."


The reality is that these bailouts are being structured to be a massive transfer of wealth to the very richest people in the country. It is not supposed to be the media's job to conceal this fact from the public.

--Dean Baker
Posted by Dean Baker on October 25, 2008 9:22 AM

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Presidential Election and the Latest on Vote Suppression Efforts

The Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays just played a great series, and last night, in the seventh game, the Rays won the right to go to the World Series. The series was a close, but fair, contest. Let's hope our own Presidential election, which looks like it may be close as well, will also be fair.

On that issue, here's a must-read article by Robert Kennedy, Jr. and Greg Palast, in Rolling Stone Magazine: Block the Vote: Rolling Stone. It's good to see we don't always have to go to the UK to get decent investigative news reports on our own Presidential election. We just have to look harder.

EXCERPT FROM ROLLING STONE ARTICLE:
....In state after state, Republican operatives — the party's elite commandos of bare-knuckle politics — are wielding new federal legislation to systematically disenfranchise Democrats. If this year's race is as close as the past two elections, the GOP's nationwide campaign could be large enough to determine the presidency in November. "I don't think the Democrats get it," says John Boyd, a voting-rights attorney in Albuquerque who has taken on the Republican Party for impeding access to the ballot. "All these new rules and games are turning voting into an obstacle course that could flip the vote to the GOP in half a dozen states."


.....

ACORN Voter Fraud Hoax: A Case of Projection?

Now here's more on the Presidential election, from the Guardian in England (as I've said here, it seems we have to go to the other side of the Atlantic to get the best reports on our own election): Brad Friedman: The Republican voter fraud hoax guardian.co.uk. Well, some of the real story is also being reported right here in the USA, though not as widely as the ACORN hoax story. The important story, for example, does indeed appear in the current edition of Rolling Stone, Block the Vote: Rolling Stone, an article by Greg Palast and Bobby Kennedy, Jr. To their credit, the New York Times and CBS News(see links in the excerpt below) have actually also reported a bit of the real story.

The Republicans/FOX News have been disseminating their ACORN voter fraud story to distract attention from the main story, in what is sort of the political and journalistic version of "projection."

EXCERPT FROM BRAD FRIEDMAN'S GUARDIAN ARTICLE:
[The Acorn fraud story] is all a hoax. All of it.But it's been an effective one, as it's served to distract from very real concerns about tens of thousands of voters who have been illegally purged from the voting rolls in dozens of states, as the New York Times reported in a remarkable front page investigative story. That story followed a report the week before from CBS News detailing still more wholesale purges of voting rolls in some 20 states.That will be the November surprise, when thousands, if not millions show up to vote only to find they are no longer welcome to do so and are forced to vote on a "provisional ballot" which may or may not be counted.These real concerns of election fraud, such as voting roll purges, electronic voting machines that don't work and so much more that actually matters, have been obscured by the smoke and mirrors and sleight of hand of the Republican party's phoney Acorn voter fraud charade.And where they can, they'll parlay it all into new photo ID restrictions at the polls (knowing full well that some 20m, largely Democratic-leaning voters don't own the type of ID they'd need to jump over that next Republican hurdle.)Yet, with all of the unsubstantiated, wholly bogus claims of voter fraud being carried out by Democrats, there remains at least one case of absolutely ironclad, documented, yet still-unprosecuted case of voter fraud that, for some reason, Republicans don't much like to talk about.We can only wonder why.

www.gregpalast.com
www.stealbackyourvote.org

Saturday, October 18, 2008

More on Connecticut's Same-Sex Marriage Decision

Here's another good article by Hofstra Law Professor Joanna Grossman, this one on the recent Connecticut Supreme Court's same-sex marriage decision: FindLaw's Writ - Grossman: And Connecticut Makes Three: The State's Highest Court Declares Same-Sex Marriage Ban Unconstitutional.

....Connecticut's ruling is similar to the ones in Massachusetts and California, though in subtle ways it is also stronger. Connecticut's civil union law did grant same-sex couples identical rights and benefits to married couples, unlike California's domestic partnership law, which had one tangible difference. And Connecticut's ruling on constitutional sufficiency is marginally stronger than that of Massachusetts, since it came as part of a fully-litigated controversy rather than as an advisory opinion. But these distinctions are minor; it's fair to treat all three of these cases as standing for the same principle: When it comes to marriage, separate is not equal.

The civil union operates as a pragmatic step toward marriage equality - one that secures tangible benefits for same-sex couples despite the present political climate. Polls often show majority support for civil unions, but not for same-sex marriage. Despite the practical benefits, however, the stigma and second-class nature inherent in an alternative status is inescapable. That is a reality that Massachusetts, California and, now, Connecticut have rightly faced up to - and acknowledged with rulings ensuring the name of marriage is accessible to all.

It's hard to know how many states must recognize same-sex marriage before we have a critical mass, but three is a good place to start.

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

We Must Watch The BBC To Learn About Our Own Presidential Election

Our American corporate media is still busy spewing Wall Street's propaganda, which is responsible for helping to sell the Great Heist (a/k/a "the bailout") which the Wall Street banking community and its friends in the White House have succeeded in forcing upon a reluctant Congress.

Now it is clear that Congress, in almost complete unanimity, has struck out on three of the most important issues during the Bush Years: 1) Patriot Act, 2) Iraq War authorization, and 3) the bailout for banks. It must be depressing and lonely to be one of the handful in Congress, such as Vermont's Representative Bernie Sanders or Wisconsin's Senator Russ Feingold, who were smart and decent enough to take the lonely, principled position in opposition to each of these wrong moves. It is no coincidence that those few who turned out to have been right on those previously wrongly decided issues are the same ones who have correctly opposed the corporate/bank welfare legislation now.

And it will hardly be any consolation once these few courageous politicians who were right on those other issues are eventually judged by history to have been right again on this latest issue. It is hard to make good judgments and look ahead when the media is so caught up in the government and Wall Street propaganda of the present.

Naturally, this same American corporate media, whose normal modus operandi is to pass off as actual news the many warmed-over press releases from the government, whether on the economy or on war or on almost anything else, despite the huge credibility problems of this government, is now completely ignoring one of the most important news stories of our time. That important news is the greatest unreported story about the current Presidential campaign - the fact that Obama may lose the election due to Republican efforts to reduce, block, or eliminate vast numbers of poor voters in many states, in order to throw the election to the Republicans. Of course, our Republican administration would not be sending out press releases to ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, and FOX on all of that.

So once again, just like in 2000 and 2004, we have to go overseas, to the BBC, to get this important news, even though the news comes from an American, Greg Palast, the greatest living investigative reporter in this country. Here are the reports as recently broadcast by the BBC:


BBC Report, by Greg Palast, Part One


BBC Report, by Greg Palast, Part Two

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Connecticut Finds Right to Same-Sex Marriage - Joins Massachusetts and California

In a long-awaited decision, the Connecticut Supreme Court yesterday joined the highest courts of California and Massachusetts in creating, or recognizing, a right of same-sex marriage on state constitutional grounds. As in those other courts, the decision was a close 4-3. See the news here: Connecticut Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage - The Boston Globe. The majority opinion of the court is here, and the three separate dissenting opinions are here, here and here.

EXCERPT FROM OCTOBER 10, 2008 BOSTON GLOBE ARTICLE:
(By Michael Levenson and Andrew Ryan)

Connecticut became the third state to legalize same-sex marriage today in a 4-3 decision by the state Supreme Court.

In an 85-page decision issued at 11:30 a.m., the court struck down a law barring same-sex marriage, ruling that the state had "failed to establish adequate reason to justify the statutory ban."

The justices noted in the majority opinion that they recognized "as the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court did in Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health … that 'our decision marks a change in the history of our marriage law.' "

The case, Kerrigan v. the state Commissioner of Public Health, was brought by eight same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses by the Madison town clerk. They argued that the state's civil union law was discriminatory and unconstitutional because it established a separate and therefore inherently unequal institution for a
minority group. Citing equal protection under the law, the state Supreme Court
agreed.

"In accordance with these state constitutional requirements, same sex couples cannot be denied the freedom to marry," said the majority opinion, which was written by Justice Richard N. Palmer.

....


For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Hooray, The Bailout Was Defeated

Hooray, the bailout was defeated. But don't expect the likes of Nancy Pelosi and our own Barney Frank to do any soul searching.

This defeat shows that politics certainly makes strange bedfellows. Many Republicans joined with some Democrats in opposing this horrible bill. Of course there were only three Congressman in Massachusetts who voted against this horrible bill - John Tierney, Bill Delahunt and Stephen Lynch. And they are to be commended. The others should be condemned for their cowardice.

Now let's see if the sky falls. More likely, the housing bubble will continue to burst, as it should. If Congress really wants to help the situation they should do what Obama has said we should do (despite his similarly shameful, cowardly support of this horrible bill), and stimulate the economy "from the bottom up" rather than from the top down.

But don't hold your breath. I doubt this is the end of corporate welfare as we know it. This particular kind of welfare is far too important to the large campaign contributors.

My previous posts on this bailout attempt:
A Shameful Suck Up
Just Say No To The Bailout

A Shameful Suck Up

Another shameful moment for our Congress is coming in its suck up to Wall Street. Once again we have bad leadership in the Democratic party, and that has and will result in more ass-kissing of the power elite, including the Bush Administration, whose incompetent Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson will now have incredible power over taxpayer money to aid the unworthy on Wall Street.

As I feared in the bailout there will be no meaningful restrictions on executive pay, despite what is being generally reported, even on NPR this morning. We are also wrongly being told that we taxpayers, who will be expected to foot the bill for this further giveaway to the rich, may actually profit from this bill eventually.

Today's latest article by economist Dean Baker, TPMCafe | Economist Dean Baker| Why Bail? The Banks Have a Gun Pointed at Their Head and Are Threatening to Pull the Trigger, explains why we should not accept the banking community's propaganda, which is being disseminated by the government "leaders" - both in the White House and Congress.

Here is our Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi:



Wow, I think this is her most shameful moment in office, probably akin to Colin Powell's most shameful moment of his career, when he presented false intelligence information to the UN to justify the invasion of Iraq.

And here, with Dennis Kucinich, is what our Speaker of the House should be saying today instead:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Just Say No To The Bailout

Once again we are being asked to trust the liars and fools who run Washington.

First we were asked to take the Bush Regime's word that suddenly terrorism was such a threat to us that we needed to give up some of our civil liberties. And thus we got the abominable Patriot Act.

Shortly thereafter we were asked by Bush, and the foreign policy duo of Dick Cheney and Cheney's pal and longtime mentor and partner-in-crime Don Rumsfeld - who together have screwed up foreign policy in their work for several different presidents, from Ford to the present Bush - to trust them about the need to go to war against Iraq because it supposedly had weapons of mass destruction. They asked for, and got, from Congress a blank check to go to war if and when these liars chose to go to war. And what a shameful disgrace this war against Iraq has been.

And now, Bush and the banking elite, for whom the Bush family has worked for decades, have asked Congress for a blank check for "$700 billion" (who knows how much, really?) to bail out Wall Street. Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, current Chairman Ben Bernanke, and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, have overseen the stock bubble and/or the housing bubble, and have continuously either lied about one or both of these bubbles, or stupidly and irresponsibly told us everything was fine while doing nothing to prevent or ameliorate the predictable problems so many other economists, not similarly blinded by the elite's narrow Wall Street agenda, could and did foresee. And now we are being asked to believe these liars and incompetents once again? And let them stay in charge?

As they attempt to bail out unworthy Wall Street, will these incompetents and/or liars also do the things they should do, such as adopt strict conditions (caps on executive pay, for example) in exchange for appropriating our taxpayer dollars? Will they democratize the Federal Reserve?

Not a chance. They were happy to expand in an instant the role of the Federal Reserve with the Bear Stearns bailout, but would they actually put it more directly under the control of the people? No way.

Sometimes, we should just say no. No to the incompetents, the liars, the crooks, the thieves, the criminals in high places, and no to the greedy capitalist pigs who have sucked lots of the lifeblood of the economy from the ordinary people who truly keep the economy working. No to the incompetents who have screwed up the economy while telling us all is well. The banking and economic elites who pretend to manage our economy for the greater good, while actually and primarily serving the narrow interests of the greedy on Wall Street, have been the tyrants of our economy for decades.

They need to get a strong message from the people that there will be no more business as usual. Will the Democrats step up to the plate? Sadly, that is not likely, because they are far too much aligned themselves with the same economic elite so undeserving of their power. So far they appear to be wimps. I have no confidence that our spineless Congress will engineer a bailout with the kind of conditions, and structural changes, that are really needed, and which would benefit the vast majority of us in the long run. I think, then, that we should instead insist that there be no bailout at all.

Bush and Company told us all was well, but suddenly now the sky is falling. We've been there before with these clowns. It's too bad the media is going along with the latest lies and manipulations and not exposing these phonies and questioning their motives. Instead, we should listen to one of the economists who was right about both the stock bubble and the housing bubble while the economic elite were irresponsibly full of happy talk. Dean Baker is one of these, and he says we should not reward incompetence and should not give these elites the bailout they now seek: No Bailout: Stop Rewarding Incompetence, by Dean Baker.

To understand better what is really going on (as the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal frequently do not get it right), see Dean Baker's blog Beat The Press | The American Prospect: Dean Baker's commentary on economic reporting. And, now more than ever, it's a fine time to read his tome The Conservative Nanny State - How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer.

Monday, September 22, 2008

NOLO, Its New Divorce Blog, and Do It Yourself Divorce



Nolo, the very reputable publisher of legal forms, books, and other aids for those with legal problems they can handle on their own ("Do It Yourself" or "DIY") has recently sponsored blogs in various legal areas.

Since April of this year, Nolo’s Divorce, Custody & Family Law Blog has been in operation. Although the blog has not had very many posts to date, the quality is excellent, as the blog is written by California family lawyer Emily Doskow, who is the very author of Nolo's Essential Guide to Divorce.

While on the subject of DIY divorce, I want to say two more things:

1) DIY divorce is not for everyone, and it is best actually to get an initial consultation with a divorce attorney in your state to discern whether you can and should in fact handle your divorce on your own, or whether you need to hire an attorney, mediator, or other professionals. OK, you can stop laughing now. Honest to God, I myself have told many individuals, at their initial free consultations with me, that they should not hire me or anyone else, and should instead consider handling their divorces themselves. Of course, DIY is generally only appropriate when there are few, if any, unresolved issues between the parties, that is, when there is little or nothing in dispute, and also when there are no matters of any complexity.

2) The Nolo book is a good book for general reference and a general understanding of divorce, but one should actually find, if possible, a more specific book applicable to the laws of one's own state. Divorce and family law are governed by state law, and each state's laws, while similar in many respects, are in fact oftentimes quite different.

When I see a good candidate for DIY here in Massachusetts, I show them my copy of How To File For Divorce In Massachusetts, a book written and published by the founders of Divorcenet.com, Massachusetts' own divorce attorney Sharyn T. Sooho, and Steven L. Fuchs.

Full Disclosure: I am not just an ardent admirer of the book and especially the website, divorcenet.com, for which these two are responsible; I am also a longtime member/advertiser on their website, http://www.divorcenet.com/. But I get no benefit from this plug, of which the authors have had no advance notice from me, nor have I even informed them that that I have been quietly promoting their book for years. (As for the Nolo book, I do not even know its author nor have I ever communicated with her.)

Now, my own edition of the Massachusetts book is quite old and I am not sure if it has been updated. But it is still the best book - even the old edition I have - which I have seen for DIY divorce on the market in Massachusetts. I have recently seen another book in several of the big bookstores and it seemed reasonably good as well, but the Sooho-Fuchs one is the best.

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Crockefeller's Sealed Divorce Records Released to Prosecutor

It seems whenever I miss a story in my own state, at least regarding the fascinating "Clark Rockefeller" (hereinafter "Crockefeller") case, Jeanne Hannah over in Michigan picks up on it. In her blog Updates in Michigan Family Law: Sealed divorce files?, she discusses the news of last week, here in the Boston Globe, that certain of Crockefeller's sealed divorce records were ordered released to the Suffolk County District Attorney. Although it is not ordinary for a court to seal divorce records in the first place (except for personal financial statements, Guardian ad Litem reports, and other confidential documents, divorce files are public records), it does happen, and I have had a number of cases where one or both parties successfully sought to have their divorce records sealed.

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Massachusetts Divorce & Wills Lawyer Blog

I just found another good, new legal blog in Massachusetts, and this one should be of interest to my readers as it is devoted to my primary area of practice - family law - as well as estate planning: Massachusetts Divorce & Wills Lawyer. It is published and written by Gabriel Cheong, who practices both family law and estate planning from his office in Quincy, Massachusetts. I have just added it to my blogroll. Have a read, subscribe to it, blogroll it, and pass the word.

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Stimulus Checks Intercepted for Child Support: My Client's Story and a Rant

While I myself have been too busy to post this past week, a few of my clients have found themselves quoted in the news. There's only one I can mention here. Cheryl Hayes, my former client, has authorized me to discuss her case after she thanked me for directing Associated Press reporter Steve LeBlanc to her this past Tuesday, thus resulting in her interview an hour later and a photo session that resulted in the following Associated Press article, AP IMPACT: Stimulus checks boost child support - washingtonpost.com, immediately published and picked up by some 300 news outlets around the world.

I find it a bit ironic that I had a hand in having my client pictured in this article, as she is a woman owed lots of child support by her exhusband and she is arguing that it is absolutely correct that the federal stimulus checks should be intercepted to pay down child support arrears. Well, I agree with her. However, up until just five or six years ago I was predominantly representing men in divorce actions. I have probably had more than my fair share of male clients who were the victims of child support orders that were too high. Indeed, I have long been both personally and professionally aware of the recent history of unfairness toward men in the Massachusetts family courts, both in custody and visitation matters and in child support determinations.

But what I now understand much better - now that I represent a larger, more representative sample of family law clients, including many more women now than before - is that family law victims are not of one gender. Too often irresponsible and even abusive individuals, whether male or female, are able to "win" in court, at least in some respects, even when the facts are against them.

When the reporter contacted me on Tuesday, and was seeking clients or previous clients who could speak to him about the issue of stimulus checks being intercepted to pay child support obligations, I immediately told him to speak with the Fathers and Families organization here in Massachusetts, and was told that he had already done so. The reporter needed, instead, somebody who was in favor of the interception of stimulus checks to pay child support arrears. Well, I certainly had someone for him. After calling Cheryl Hayes to get her approval to give her name and phone number to the reporter, I helped the reporter to make contact.

Cheryl Hayes wants even more publicity for her case, and wants me to tell even more of her story here, because it is so illustrative of the fact that there are indeed deadbeat dads out there. And boy, if there ever was one, her exhusband fits the bill. (Of course, there are deadbeat moms as well, and there are misguided, mistaken, and sometimes even incompetent court officials, and thus there exist numerous types of miscarriages of justice, leading to suffering by men, women, and children.)

The man who owes Cheryl Hayes some $30,000 somehow had the gall and the wherewithal to hire expensive attorneys to fight for the right to see his children, despite the fact that he had abused them and they were terrified of him. But this man failed to show up in court when the children's therapist and another mental health professional testified in court that the children suffered from quite egregious abuse by him while they were with him in North Dakota, and before the children moved with their mother to Massachusetts. This man has since left North Dakota and now lives in Minnesota, where he has managed to pay next to nothing in child support in the past three years, while the children have continued to struggle with therapy, and even institutionalization, as a result of his unspeakable abuse.

This man has failed to show up personally in Massachusetts to court for either of his family law cases - his visitation case (which led to a trial in which we won a ruling, after the above-described testimony, that he would have no contact with the children) and his child support case. This man has been able to avoid, halt, or otherwise dodge investigation by social service agencies and the police by moving from one state to another, and has avoided paying child support by perjuring himself in courts of at least two states, and by hiring attorneys in this state while achieving some degree of success in manipulating the court systems in at least two, and possibly three, states.

It is "men" like this who give all of us fathers a bad name and truly deserve to be called deadbeats. And it is cases like his - no less than the cases of fathers who are paying too much child support - that point up the fact that our courts are falling far short of their responsibility to find facts and dispense true justice.

We should not demonize all men who owe child support, as most of them are good people, even many of those who fall far behind in their support. (See my previous post Deadly Delinquents, Deadbeat Dads, and the Dangers of Demonization.)

Nor should we demonize men simply because they are accused of abuse. Men are more likely to be accused of abuse, but not really that much more likely actually to be guilty of abuse (physical or mental) than women, according to the available evidence. Because men are less likely to have custody of their children, and because men are still more likely to have greater expectations for financial contributions to their families, men are also more likely to be required to pay child support than women, and there is a greater number of men than women who fall behind in their support. However, men with child support obligations are more likely than women with child support obligations to actually pay those awards, according to the evidence.

These real statistics, often covered up by feminist groups and trumpeted by fathers' advocates, point out not only the inequality, unfairness, and gender bias in our expectations of both mothers and fathers that have resulted in numerous injustices in our family courts. These statistics also point to the sad reality that the facts of individual cases often do not matter: that family law conflicts too often lead to the wrong results (too much child support, not enough child support, custody to the wrong parent, etc.) because of the unfair procedures, bias, incompetence, and other failings in the judicial system.

Each case should be judged on its own facts. Far too often, because of the problems with our court system, the facts do not determine the outcome of cases. And irresponsible and abusive individuals too often are permitted to harm others with seeming impunity. And that's just sad. And wrong.

I have faith that our courts will improve. But we need more people who have suffered injustice in the family law arena to take the time to get involved and try to change the system. People like Cheryl Hayes. And people like the good men and women at Fathers & Families.


For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Stealing the Vote - Will the Republicans Be Able To Do It Again This Year?


Did Al Gore win in 2000? Yes, he did. The hanging chads, and the corrupt ruling of five members of the US Supreme Court were only part of the story. If thousands upon thousands of black voters had not been deliberately disenfranchised by Jeb Bush's Florida government, as documented and reported by Greg Palast at BBC and elsewhere, and if other intentional Republican cheating had not occurred (e.g., counting overseas military votes although the ballots arrived late), Gore would have been declared President in 2000. Despite Nader. Despite the hanging chads. Even despite a corrupt US Supreme Court which was willing to overturn the Florida Supreme Court in order to put Bush in the White House. Gore would have won, and those problems would not have mattered.

And then did Kerry win in 2004? Greg Palast has made a strong case that he did in fact win - specifically, that he actually won Ohio and New Mexico, and but for Republican cheating in those states, Kerry would have, and should have, been named President in 2004. In 2004, I contributed financially to Kerry's campaign and also I was one of the many lawyers who volunteered to help the Kerry campaign monitor elections in several important states. Given a choice of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, I chose Pennsylvania, and was therefore responsible for monitoring a particular voting precinct in Scranton. (Afterwards, I joked that Kerry won Pennsylvania because I was there, and that had I opted for Ohio, Kerry would not have "lost.") The discrepancies in Pennsylvania and Florida in 2004 were not so many, but in Ohio and New Mexico they were enough, arguably (see Greg Palast's reports) to rob Kerry of the presidency.

Both Gore and Kerry did the polite, establishment thing and stepped aside for the sake of their own future careers - or whatever. To me, Gore was particularly disappointing in his refusal to fight, not for himself, but for the many disenfranchised voters whose votes were stolen in Florida. Many blamed Ralph Nader for the "loss" but the real blame belongs with the Jeb Bush-Jim Crow tactics that are frighteningly a major part of the Republican playbook, and which continue to threaten our "democracy" - that is, whatever remains of our democracy, now that big business has bought and paid for most of the politicians in Washington.

The mainstream media did not timely, accurately, and fully report the real story of 2000. Instead, weeks after the real story should have been on page one, the corporate media instead made allusions to the real story, as had already been reported in England and elsewhere in Europe, typically in a shamefully short article about the NAACP's "claims" buried on page 26. Nor did the media report on the vote stealing of 2004. The corporate media (General Electric, Disney, Rupert Murdoch, et al.) has also not reported the real story on the "Help America Vote Act" (an Orwellian name for a frighteningly repulsive federal law that continues to threaten our democracy).

For the real story - as there is hardly any guarantee we will get the unvarnished truth from the corporate media just because they have the constitutional "right" of a free press - one must read Greg Palast's articles and books at www.gregpalast.com.

Now Greg Palast has teamed up with Robert Kennedy, Jr., in an effort to prevent a repeat of the Republican vote stealing that has occurred in the last two elections. See www.StealBackYourVote.org. Perhaps Obama will win in a landslide, as Kerry should have done in 2004, and thus it will be impossible for the corrupt Republican machine to steal enough votes to take the election this time. But all who care about democratic values should be vigilant. Vote stealing is a time-honored tradition, both in this country and throughout the world - both "democratic" and "non-democratic". But while Jimmy Carter may monitor the elections in other countries, we can't expect to have outside monitors with any clout monitoring our own elections. We certainly can't count on our media to monitor the election accurately; the media, and not just FOX, has been a huge part of the problem, both in 2000 and 2004.

There is a documentary, now showing in East Cambridge, at Kendall Square's landmark theater, about vote stealing - Stealing America - The Movie - which I have not yet seen but which I will see soon. From the previews, I can see that both Robert Kennedy, Jr. and Greg Palast, among many others, are interviewed in the documentary.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Parental Kidnapping and Amber Alerts - Crockefeller Provides Teachable Moment

Since the case of Crockefeller (the man who most recently called himself "Clark Rockefeller" and who apparently has used numerous other names since coming to this country from Germany as Christian Gerhartsreiter) has begun to dominate the news, several people have asked me how a father can be charged with kidnapping his own son. (Whatever this man's identity, there is no question that he is the father of the child he took away during a supervised visit in Boston.) My previous posts on this case are here (right after the arrest in Baltimore) and then here(Crockefeller, His Lawyer and the Media).

I respond that parents can indeed "kidnap" their own children, and there are "parental kidnapping" laws which make it a crime for parents to kidnap their own children, such as the Massachusetts law, Chapter M.G.L. 265, Section 26A ("Kidnapping of minor or incompetent by relative")under which Crockefeller has been charged:

Whoever, being a relative of a child less than eighteen years old, without lawful authority, holds or intends to hold such a child permanently or for a protracted period, or takes or entices such a child from his lawful custodian, or takes or entices from lawful custody any incompetent person or other person entrusted by authority of law to the custody of another person or institution shall be punished by imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than one year or by a fine of up to one thousand dollars, or both. Whoever commits any offense described in this section by taking or holding said child outside the commonwealth or under circumstances which expose the person taken or enticed from lawful custody to a risk which endangers his safety shall be punished by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars, or by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than five years, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

Some of the confusion may be the result of Crockefeller's lawyer's initial reported statements casting doubt on the viability of the kidnapping charge. In response, the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly Blog then issued a post on the criminal statute and case law interpreting it to explain how parents who take or hold children in violation of a valid custody order can indeed be charged, and convicted, of parental kidnapping.

Now I have just read another excellent post, with some good links to other informative sites, at the Updates in Michigan Family Law Blog, by Jeanne Hannah, an attorney with a lot of experience with parental kidnapping cases; her blog discusses the Crockefeller case, amber alerts and parental kidnapping: Amber Alerts-When Are They Used?

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website, and for information about Massachusetts criminal law, see the criminal defense page.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Crockefeller, His Lawyer, and the Media

As I previously stated here right after "Clark Rockefeller" was arrested, there's got to be more to the weird story of Crockefeller and Snooks, and we're bound to hear more soon. Well we have now heard quite a bit more, and even some from Crockefeller's own lawyer.

The Boston Globe had an article in today's paper, Lone defender savors high-profile case - by Jonathan Saltzman, about Crockefeller and his lawyer, Stephen Hrones, who has taken his case to the press with a vengeance. This is precisely the kind of case in which going to the press is necessary, as the case is going to be tried in the media initially anyway, and something from the defendant needs to be heard.

But the article discusses speculation and second guessing by other lawyers about the lawyer's tactics, particularly Hrones' decision to reveal some rather uncomfortable facts about his client's past. I wouldn't second guess this very experienced, and very effective attorney's decisions. It is hard for any of us to know whether Crockefeller's attorney is making the right moves or not, because we don't know what he knows from his own client.

But there are some beliefs I have about the case as a result of what he is doing. Given the way that Crockefeller's attorney is handling this case, and divulging information, I would assume that there is too much bad news and he has a huge, huge need for damage control. It's akin to bringing out some very inconvenient truths by your witness on direct to take out some of the sting of cross examination.
EXCERPT FROM BOSTON GLOBE ARTICLE:

"I'm going to enjoy the ride as long as it goes," said Hrones, who characterizes the case as the climax of his career. "But I'm protecting my client. He goes first."

But whether Hrones is helping his client or hurting him through news interviews is a matter of debate in Boston legal circles.

Damon Scarano, a lawyer who has known Hrones for years, said Hrones has humanized his client by sharing what Rockefeller says he remembers about his past. Hrones has told reporters that Rockefeller speaks German but does not remember growing up in Germany. Rockefeller also remembers "bits and pieces" of his childhood, a Scottish nanny and a visit to Mount Rushmore in a station wagon, for example, Hrones said.

"I think he's handling it very well," Scarano said of Hrones. "He's been very low-key on this. Usually, he's very hyper."

But other lawyers say privately that Hrones may have hurt his client by telling reporters Monday that Rockefeller recalls living in a guesthouse in San Marino, Calif., that he rented from John and Linda Sohus, a young couple, and John's mother, Didi, in the early 1980s. Hrones said Rockefeller also recalls when John and Linda Sohus went missing in 1985. The remains of a man believed to be John Sohus were found on the couple's property in 1994, and his wife has never been found. Both are presumed dead, authorities say.

The alleged admission by Hrones, said some lawyers, may have put his client at the scene of a homicide.

Hrones has also confirmed Rockefeller's use of aliases, saying there is nothing wrong with using another name if one does not commit fraud. "You members of the press, you could call yourselves Joe Blow or anything, and it'd be no crime," he told reporters Monday evening.

As it happens, Hrones said, he met Rockefeller several weeks ago, before the alleged kidnapping. A mutual friend whom Hrones declined to identify introduced the lawyer to Rockefeller in Boston. After Rockefeller was arrested Aug. 2 in Baltimore and his daughter, Reigh Storrow Mills Boss, was found unharmed, Rockefeller called his friend and asked him to get in touch with Hrones.

Hrones, a Harvard-educated son of an MIT professor, has long had a deep distrust of authority and sympathy for people in trouble. In the 1960s, he protested the Vietnam War outside the Pentagon. In recent years, he has denounced the Boston Police Department for several wrongful convictions.

His successes included a 2004 ruling that erased the conviction of Angel S. Toro, who was sentenced to life in prison for killing a Howard Johnson's clerk in Dorchester during a 1981 holdup. Toro is still serving a sentence of three years to life for an unrelated murder conviction in Florida.

"I had about 14 attorneys since he was arrested, and without a doubt, he was the most effective," said Toro's wife, Debra, of Melrose.

Robert A. George, another defense lawyer, said that "when the world seems to be crashing down all around a defendant, there is not a better person to be fighting for your life."


For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website, and for information about Massachusetts criminal law, see the criminal defense page.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Economics of Gay Marriage

I have long been waiting for the Law and Economics blogging professor duo from the University of Chicago - Judge Richard Posner and Gary Becker - to address gay marriage on their blog. Well, the wait is over, as they both specifically addressed the issue today. See Judge Posner's post The Economics of Gay Marriage and Gary Becker's post Should Gay Marriages be Allowed? Gary Becker's piece is especially interesting, as he discusses not only gay marriage, but also polygamy, in a short piece that contemplates, and advocates, marriage as a private contract with minimal interference from the government.


Of course, a must-read for anyone interested in the law and economics of the family is Gary Becker's fascinating tome A Treatise on the Family, recently updated and expanded. Becker won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1992.



For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Bush's Chauffeur Sentenced to "Time Served" For His Role in Aiding and Abetting Bush's War Crimes, But Will Be Held Indefinitely As Enemy Combatant

Just kidding.

No, that would be Osama Bin Laden's chauffeur, not George Bush's. See today's story about Bin Laden's chauffeur, Salim Hamdan, getting a sentence of 5 1/2 years. He's already served 5 years but don't expect him to get out in half a year with "time served" as he is expected to be held indefinitely as an "enemy combatant" despite the military jury verdict's acknowledgement, even in the kangaroo court in which our government had both of its thumbs on the scales, that he was just a bit player.

Remember, Bush told us he is the "decider". He gets to decide to kill innocent civilians in an illegal war and lie about that with impunity, but he also gets to redefine what a war crime is so that he can otherwise punish those he wants to punish, by labeling them war criminals and then locking them up indefinitely as "enemy combatants" even after their kangaroo court sentences are over.

But no, Bush's own crimes do not count. For more on that, see John Dean's discussion, at Findlaw's Writ, of the Kucinich impeachment resolution FindLaw's Writ - Dean: Congressman Kucinich's Impeachment Resolution, the Parallel to Nixon, and Why Even Nixon's Defenders Finally Abandoned Him.


When I studied international law in law school, and my international law professor Louis Sohn kept leaving for Washington to advise the Bush I regime on the first Iraq War (at a time when international law seemed to get some degree of respect and attention instead of creative disregard and blatant disrespect), I recall hearing that the most fundamental, actual rule of "international law" is "might makes right." If that was true then, it sure as hell is true now.

Well, God Bless America. And God Bless our Decider.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Paris Hilton, Barack Obama and John McCain

After the release of McCain's political ad attacking Obama as a celebrity who is not ready to lead (and juxtaposing images of Obama with those of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton)-



Paris Hilton made the following video in response. Pretty funny.

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Sunday, August 3, 2008

"Rockefeller" Arrested In Baltimore After Kidnapping His Daughter "Snooks" in Boston

Crockefeller and Snooks. Hardly your everyday kidnapping.

I have followed with interest the recent news about the apparent con-man and divorced father, who calls himself Rockefeller (dubbed "Crockefeller" by the NY Daily News), who recently kidnapped his daughter in Boston after she returned with her mother from England for his first visit with the child after the move.

Apparently during the marriage, the mom had worked, and dad stayed home with the child, but eventually the couple split, reportedly at least in part because of the fact that this man who called himself "Clark Rockefeller" was a con-man, not at all related to the famous Rockefeller family, and without any kind of identity papers he could provide, although he moved easily within high society circles in Boston and New York.

He nonetheless got some of the assets in Massachusetts from their divorce here and agreed to let mom take custody and move with their daughter to England. Subsequently, and quite recently, it seems "Crockefeller" made a bad, bad move in kidnapping the child and disappearing out of state. He was just found in Baltimore yesterday. Snooks appears to be okay.

Boys and girls, this is not the way to conduct a marriage, a divorce, or a post-divorce visitation schedule. The craziest thing is that, apparently the father, despite being a con artist, a fraud, and a kidnapper, was otherwise somehow a good father to the child during the marriage. There's got to be more to this weird story, and we're bound to hear more soon. We'll have to pay close attention. You just can't make this stuff up.

For the latest reports, see the following news stories, in reverse chronological order:

1)FBI Busts Rockefeller (Boston Herald, August 3, 2008)

2)Suspected kidnap dad Clark Rockefeller in FBI custody in Maryland (New York Daily News, August 2, 2008)

3)Snooks' mom filed divorce over Clark's Crockefeller ruse (New York Daily News, August 1, 2008)


For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Massachusetts House Joins Senate In Voting To Repeal 1913 Law

The House voted overwhelmingly today to repeal the 1913 law. Now that both the Senate and the House have passed the bill, the bill will go to Governor Patrick, who is expected to sign it. As a result of the repeal of the old statute, gay and lesbian couples residing in other states will now be permitted to marry in Massachusetts even if their home states would not permit them to marry in their home states. See the Blue Mass Group Blog for more. My previous post on this story is here.

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Monday, July 28, 2008

YouTube Divorce - A Failed Strategy

To follow up on the YouTube Divorce of Tricia Walsh-Smith, which I discussed here this past April (after which Tricia continued her tirades and crazy antics on YouTube, all of which I ignored), it appears that Tricia's adventurous approach to fighting her contested divorce has not helped her one bit.

Back in April, I thought Tricia had the craziness out of her system, as she appeared to have gotten smart after her first YouTube video by hiring a good lawyer who would prevent her from using YouTube again. But I was wrong. She apparently either ignored good advice from her lawyers (most likely) or she didn't get any. Thus she persisted in smearing her husband in further YouTube videos.

Now the judge has found that Tricia conducted a "calculated and callous campaign to embarrass and humiliate her husband and his daughters." The judge both ordered her to leave the New York apartment from which she complained on the first video that her husband had tried to evict her, and also refused to void her prenuptial agreement as she had sought. See Family Lore: Walsh-Smith: "Calculated and callous" .

If you really feel like airing dirty laundry in public, you should consult a good lawyer first. But then you should follow that good lawyer's advice, even though the advice will almost always be: No, don't do it. Keep it private.

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Massachusetts Legislature Moves Toward Equality for Gay and Lesbian Couples

Despite the fact that the Massachusetts Senate recently passed Senate Bill 800, which would repeal the 1913 law that prohibits non-resident gay and lesbian couples from marrying in Massachusetts unless their home state also would recognize their marriage, the House has yet to take up and pass the bill, and has until July 31 before its current session ends. See the New England Blade's most recent article from Thursday: House Ends Week Still Silent on 1913 Law; Bill Sent for Third Reading; Session Ends Next Week, and for more background the earlier article of Wednesday, July 23 (quoted below). Pressure from the advocates for marriage equality may overcome some political resistance in the House. Hopefully the advocates will prevail, and then the measure will go to the desk of Governor Patrick, who is expected to sign it into law.

In other, more decidedly positive news, also from the New England Blade: "The Massachusetts State Senate on Wednesday, July 23, by voice vote, passed the MassHealth Equality Bill H.B. 4107, which would grant married same-sex couples in Massachusetts the same access to Medicaid benefits as heterosexual couples. Currently, federal Defense of Marriage Act regulations prohibit same-sex couples legally married in Massachusetts from being treated as each other’s spouses for the purposes of federal benefits programs, including Medicaid, which is uniquely funded by both state and federal dollars. The bill passed in the House last week. Once the House and Senate agree on slight differences in language, the bill will go to Gov. Deval Patrick’s desk, who is expected to sign it into law...."

EXCERPT FROM NEW ENGLAND BLADE ARTICLE, JULY 23:

The House of Representatives, by the New England Blade print deadline, had not taken up Senate Bill 800, which, if passed, would repeal the 1913 law thatprohibits non-resident same-sex couples from getting married in Massachusetts unless their home state would recognize their marriage.

But despite the looming end of the current legislative session — July 31 — House Speaker Sal DiMasi remains committed to bringing the issue before the full House soon, said his spokesperson, David Guarino.

“It is something we hope to bring up in the next few days,” David Guarino, spokesperson for DiMasi, said on Tuesday. “Speaker DiMasi is a strong supporter of it and hopeful to get this done this session.”

Guarino did not return a call made to him on Wednesday.

MassEquality said on Wednesday that“it’s still very likely that it will come up before the end of the session,” and asked its membership to contact their respective legislators. The Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Caucus has also urged its membership to contact their legislators.

“The Senate acted quickly and decisively but the House may be a more difficult battle,” says the Caucus in an e-mail to its membership on Tuesday. “Our opponents have generated thousands of calls and e-mails to Representatives to stop our Repeal lobbying, and they’re having an impact. Now is the time to act. We need you to e-mail your state Representative and urge her/him to support the repeal.”

The State House News reported on Monday that some House members are concerned about taking up the repeal of the 1913 law during an election year, which has left doors open, says MassResistance, for opponents of the bill to talk with representatives.


“Last Thursday we sent people to personally visit every House office at the State House. They sat down with staff members and made them read our handouts explaining the facts about this issue,” said MassResistance in its blog(http://www.massresistance.org/). “They got both good and bad responses. Some were very supportive, some quite hostile. But we got the message across.”
....



For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Double Standards and Gender Inequality

I want to point out a few more articles on gender equality (or inequality) I have read while on vacation this past week. I'm always interested in debates between those looking for fairness for women and those who seek fairness for men. If I can't find common ground, I at least hope to get a little closer to the Truth by paying close attention to the gender dialectic.

First, I recently read the following article by Jed Hresko, Deputy Director of Fathers & Families, UK Equality Commission Chief: Maternity Leave Hurts Women in the Workplace, from the Fathers & Families Blog. It discusses the inequality of granting maternity leave, but not paternity leave, and the negative policy impacts, on women and men, of such policies of gender inequality. The article discusses current circumstances in the UK, but also alludes to the recent Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination pronouncement that our own Maternity Leave Act would be held to apply to men, despite the discriminatory text that remains in the written law. (I have already discussed this MCAD news here.) Hresko's article is insightful, and in my view, its message is spot on.

Also I came upon the following book review in the New York Times: Endangered Species or Still the Enemy? by Liesl Schillinger, in the July 13, 2008 New York Times. The article discusses both Save the Males: Why Men Matter, Why Women Should Care, by Kathleen Parker, and He's a Stud, She's a Slut And 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know, by Jessica Valenti.

I have read earlier writings by both of these very different social commentators, and have found much of great value in each. I will definitely be looking for these books the next time I find myself in a bookstore.
EXCERPT FROM NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW BY LIESL SCHILLINGER:

AT last: Dan Quayle has a defender. In “Save the Males,” a scorching jeremiad against the forces that have demoralized the American male over the last 20 years, the conservative columnist Kathleen Parker writes that Dan Quayle “was right” to blame the TV show “Murphy Brown” for injuring family values. In 1992, when the show’s title character (played by Candice Bergen) decided to have a baby on her own, Ms. Parker writes, she “attractively delivered the message that men are not essential for family.”

The result of our society’s absorption of this message? “A new generation of child-men, perpetual adolescents who see no point in growing up.” Judd Apatow... got any quibble with that?

Sharp, silver-tongued and greatly exercised, Ms. Parker identifies many other agents of male distress as well — from “pole-dancing moms and prostitots decked in baby hookerware” to films and music that portray men as “dolts, bullies, brutes, deadbeats, rapists, sexual predators, and wife beaters.”

Ms. Parker was raised by her father and by four stepmothers (her mother died when she was little). Today, she is the mother (and stepmother) of sons only.

As a result of her “total immersion in maledom,” she understandably feels great sympathy for the troubles that boys and men have in building a secure, reputable identity in go-girl America. She makes the charge that our society discounts the importance of men as fathers and husbands, and does too little to make men feel self-assured in schools, in the workplace, the family and even the military.

Judging by a plethora of recent magazine articles, books and even presidential campaign speeches, this may be true. But if it is, who’s to blame? While the author doesn’t let Hollywood and the intelligentsia off scot-free, the chief offenders in her mind are the people in push-up bras ... liberated women.

As she sees it, an entire generation of men have lost their moral compass because women decided to flash skin instead of flashing behavioral cue cards that say: Respect. Protect. Marry. Provide.

If empowered women choose to look out for themselves, she asks, what are men to do? She raises the specter of “fake wombs,” which would allow men “weary of being used as sperm donors and human A.T.M.’s” to at last “enjoy a level playing field.”

“Save the Males” is one of two new books, each of them arresting, entertaining and serious in its own way, that inspect the battlefield of the sexes in America, and come to opposing conclusions about the nature of the conflict. The disparity would almost be funny if the outcome didn’t matter so much.

THE other book, “He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut,” was written by Jessica Valenti, a gutsy young third-wave feminist. (As Ms. Parker vividly puts it, first-wave feminists “got women the vote,” the second wave “got them employed and divorced,” and the third wave “is busy making them porn stars.”)

Ms. Valenti is the founder of the blog Feministing.com, and published a book called “Full Frontal Feminism.” Her new book tracks 50 double standards that punish female assertiveness (for instance, “He’s Angry, She’s PMSing,” “He’s Dating a Younger Woman, She’s a Cougar,” “He’s Childless, She’s Selfish.”)Eerily, both Ms. Parker and Ms. Valenti single out some of the same signs of change for comment. Both are freaked out by Bratz dolls. To Ms. Valenti, they show that, when toymakersaren’t telling little girls that they should grow up to be happy homemakers, they’re telling them to be sexual.” To Ms. Parker, the dolls prove that little girls are “in training to drive boys wild,” inculcating sluttish dress habits that booby trap the workplace when they grow up to wear “provocative clothes that get men’s mind off their business.”

....

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Obama: Can We Have a Choice, Not an Echo?

I have come out in favor of Obama, and have contributed to his campaign, just as I did to John Kerry's four years ago. But I have, like others, been very unhappy with Obama's flip on FISA, and his other moves to the "center." I always really hate this point of presidential campaigns when we seem to get an echo, rather than a choice, with the Democrats running to the middle and trying to look tough and presidential on war ("defense") issues, and the Republicans trying to act "compassionate" in their "conservatism."

Well it didn't really work for Dukakis when he appeared in an army tank. It didn't work for Gore when he chose as his running mate the warloving, empire-building de facto Republican Joe Lieberman. It didn't work for Kerry when he tried to convince us that not only was he a windsurfer, but also a hunter who loved guns. I wonder if Obama's new gunloving gestures will work. Of course, it is the Iraq and Afghanistan (and possibly Iran) wars and related issues that worry me most about our prospective new commander in chief.

Will we have the Republicrats and the Demopublicans again, as Ralph Nader has justifiably complained in elections past? I keep hoping that this time will be a real break, a real change, a choice not an echo.

Obama, please prove me wrong. I'll support you to the end. I supported Kerry through his flip-flops and his pandering to the "middle" and I will support you as well. But let's please have a choice, not an echo. The echos of Kerry and Gore to the "compassionate conservatism" of Bush led to close elections - close elections that, whether actually won by Bush, put Bush in the White House where he proved to be neither compassionate nor conservative.

We need to win by a convincing margin, by offering up a real alternative to more of the same bullshit. End the war now in Iraq, bring home the troops, and start no further wars for the neocons or oil industry lobbyists. Maybe after we change our foreign policy, we will then be able to make some progressive changes in spending and taxing priorities, after decades of irrational policies that have shifted more and more wealth from the poor and middle class to the rich. I'm doubtful we will be so lucky to get to that point any time soon. But here's hoping.

Monday, July 14, 2008

More On Same-Sex Marriage Recognition in Other States

It's hard to keep up, but here are two more recent articles from Findlaw's Writ on issues related to same-sex marriage. These both deal with issues regarding the legal treatment of same-sex marriages in states that do not have same-sex marriage:

*The Virginia Supreme Court Enforces Vermont's Custody and Visitation Order Regarding a Same-Sex Couple's Child: Why an Anti-Same-Sex-Marriage State Recognized a Same-Sex Union For This Purpose, by Joanna Grossman, whose writing thus far proves her to be, at least to me, the foremost academic expert on these issues.

*The Case for a Right of Marriage Recognition: Why Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Should Protect Same-Sex Couples Who Change States, an interesting piece by Chicago attorney Steve Sanders.


For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Supreme Judicial Court Refuses to Permit Retroactive Same-Sex Marital Benefits

In No Pre-Marriage Benefits for Same-Sex Couples Massachusetts Law Updates blog has reported on the latest Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court case, Charron v. Amaral issued this past Thursday, in which the court put a very sensible limit on the reach of the Goodridge same-sex marriage case, in deciding that its prior constitutional holding in that case would not justify now ordering pre-marriage benefits (in this case, loss of consortium benefits in a medical malpractice case) to be applied retroactively for the benefit of a lesbian couple, for a cause of action that accrued before the couple was actually permitted to get married.

Although there were no dissents, it is interesting to see that Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, and two others, set out a different rationale in a separate concurrence, and thereby delineated some apparent differences on the court regarding the meaning of the Goodridge decision.

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Christie Brinkley Divorce - Winner Takes All?

The Christie Brinkley divorce case has just been settled, and Christie will walk away with sole custody of the children and all but $2 million in cash, from assets estimated to be worth around $60 million, including 18 properties in the Hamptons, all of which she will keep. For more see the latest stories from People Magazine, and The New York Post.

Looks like Christie won big, after choosing to insist on a public trial. But as Dahlia Lithwick said at Slate.com last week("Le Trainwreck-The Christie Brinkley divorce is a lesson in how not to cure a broken heart" July 2, 2008, Slate.com), her win may have come at a big price. As Lithwick put it:

Brinkley is about to become another victim of the fiction that you can use the tabloids more efficiently than they can use you. Won't happen. Brinkley, Cook, and their two kids will get spit out the other end of this trial, and the only real winners will be the chesty adulteresses—each of whom will have her own reality show/recording contract/clothing label by the end of the summer. I have watched enough nasty custody battles to know that if you really want your children to know the unfiltered truth, you sit down with them (when they are 18 or 21) and tell it to them. You don't run it through the double noise machine of a four-week custody trial and the 24-hour tabloid press. Whatever it is about divorce that sets the parties to behaving like children..., it would be good of them to get out of the way of the real children—whose best interests are meant to be the polestar of any custody fight. If raising children in the media spotlight isn't its own form of child abuse, subjecting them to four weeks of Daddy's dirty laundry surely is. If you can name me one celebrity who won her celebrity divorce, I'll name you a kid who lost one.

I'm not sure I completely buy her argument, but it's got some merit. I do think it is an open question how much kids really need to be sheltered from their parents' mistakes. And especially when they have been "raised in the media spotlight" how successful can we be in sheltering them? It may be that these children already knew most, if not all, of what was going on, and no further damage was done by the public airing of dad's dirty laundry. But there are those who would be in a position to know what was in the best interests of those children, including the lawyer for the children. Lithwick's best point is that the lawyer for the children wanted to close the trial, yet Christie insisted on going forward with her public trial.

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.


NEW YORK POST ARTICLE EXCERPT:

....After an intense, all-night negotiation at a Long Island hotel, the pair agreed that she would get full custody of their two children, final parental decision-making power and ownership of the large number of properties they had amassed during their 10-year marriage.

In the end, all Cook ended up with was the cash - most of which will go to pay his legal expenses, sources said.

Brinkley agreed to pay him a flat amount of $2.1 million - a drop in the bucket when compared to her fortune, which a source close to her estimated to be around $60 million.

"It's to me a very bittersweet moment because it really is the death of a marriage. It's also a new start for all of us," Brinkley said after the settlement was announced in Suffolk County Court in Central Islip. "I'm very pleased with the results today. I was here fighting for custody."

Following five bruising days in court, the two sides holed up at a Marriott in Islandia until the wee hours of the morning hammering out the final details of the settlement. They reached an agreement at 6:15 a.m.

A little more than three hours later, the 54-year-old stunner and her 49-year-old architect husband appeared in court to before Judge Mark Cohen to announce a deal.

....

Thursday, July 10, 2008

How Can You Stand It In Family Court?

As a divorce attorney, I sometimes ask myself, and I am sometimes asked by my clients, this very good question: How can you do this family law litigation every day?

Shortly after I read John Bolch's recent Family Lore entry posing this question, I found myself outside a divorce courtroom and suddenly called a "douchebag" by an irate husband. He called me this in the presence of his own lawyer and his wife, who was my client. The husband's lawyer and I had been having a calm, rational discussion, when suddenly the man stormed off and called me a douchebag.

My response? I actually smiled as I looked at opposing counsel, who seemed appropriately embarrassed by his client's sudden outburst. I then asked the other attorney, "Did you hear what your client just said?" No response. We quickly moved on. Back to business.

Parties to disputes sometimes say horrible things to the opposing parties and to the opposing attorneys, and occasionally even to judges as well. Incidents like this don't affect every attorney on every day in family court. But I would venture to say that an incident somewhat like the one I recently experienced does happen every day in each and every family courthouse I know, involving at least one divorce lawyer. When these things happen, and they have happened to most if not all of us divorce litigators, it is our job as lawyers to keep our cool. We as lawyers had better not respond in kind to any such taunts, threats or verbal assaults - or worse yet, take it up a notch and get physical.

And although we are indeed required to keep our cool, I was not too surprised to read the following article yesterday by Dianne Williamson, Divorce Court: He said, he said, in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette reporting on an apparent incident in one of the family courts where I regularly appear. Read the piece. Wow, what testosterone! This reads more like a story about barely grown, drunken dads fighting at their kids' hockey game, than about mature, respected professional men in suits in a courthouse. The facts, of course, are in dispute, but there's little doubt there was an altercation and it is likely that both a litigant and a lawyer were out of line, possibly way out of line.

For every story like this that makes the news, I bet there are dozens of similar stories you will never read. And given what is at stake in divorce and family law disputes, I sometimes wonder why we don't all witness more of such incidents.

A criminal defense attorney once questioned how I could possibly stand it in family court, and then he said to me, "If I had to go into probate [and family] court, I might have to kill someone." Of course these words should not be taken literally, or too seriously. They were spoken in a restaurant and after the consumption of a few drinks. However, his words do indicate he well knows he has no business being in family court, and that's why he stays out.

Some attorneys, probably most in fact, and even many very good civil and criminal litigators, just can't stand the heat of family court and should stay out for their own good, and for the good of their clients. Litigation is by its very nature contentious. But there is just nothing quite like the heat of family court.


For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.