Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Maine Voters Repeal Gay Marriage Law

Maine voters repealed their state's gay marriage law yesterday.
BOSTON GLOBE - PORTLAND, Maine - Maine voters overturned the state’s same-sex marriage law yesterday, delivering a potentially crushing blow to gay-rights advocates after a year when their cause seemed to be gaining momentum with legislative and legal victories in four states.

The “people’s veto’’ came six months after Maine’s law was approved, and one year after California voters rejected gay marriage by a similar margin.


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

Monday, October 5, 2009

Alimony Reform and the Business of Divorce

The Boston Business Journal continues to cover the controversy over the competing Massachusetts alimony bills, and in Friday's article by Lisa van der Pool, Dueling alimony bills raise hackles in legal circles, the focus was on the question of whether Senator Cynthia Creem, chair of the Senate's Judiciary Committee, has a "conflict of interest" on account of her sponsorship of the alimony reform bill being heard by her committee, because she is also practicing divorce law in Boston.

Many in the Massachusetts Alimony Reform organization have voiced their belief that she has a conflict of interest. In the article, I was among the quoted legal observers who fail to find any conflict of interest here. And that is so even though I do not support Cynthia Creem's Senate bill, but support instead the much more comprehensive reforms of the House bill. As often happens in the world of family law litigants, logic and reason have become victims to emotion. And once again, I have gone on record to call it like I see it, only to insure I will probably please no one.

It is hardly shocking to find lawyers as legislators, and it is quite normal for them to take up, and draft, legislation within their own areas of expertise. Divorce lawyers such as Sen. Creem regularly take cases involving clients on both sides of alimony disputes, and will inevitably have clients who benefit, and others who will not, from any change to the law. That is true for her, and that is also true for me. We simply have different opinions as to what the law should be.

The argument of those who think they see a "conflict of interest" (although they mostly do not really understand the concept) goes something like this: Divorce and family law practices, or at least certain practices such as that of Senator Creem, benefit from preserving the status quo, and/or encouraging more, rather than less, litigation.

Any real alimony reform - the argument goes - such as that which would result from enactment of the House bill, would inevitably lead to less litigation, while the enactment of the Senate bill would either fail to reduce litigation, or might even increase it, as the Senate bill would only add durational language, but without any real guidance, thus leaving extremely vague the legal standard for determining alimony awards, and thus continuing to confer upon judges overly broad discretion that would lead to more disputes and more litigation. Lawyers in general, and supposedly rich divorce lawyers in particular, would thus continue to reap huge financial benefits from this vague alimony standard.

But do you know what? The only parts of that argument which are not obviously specious are at their very best merely speculative, and the available evidence might more readily support a quite contrary thesis: that is, that our very vague, quite unpredictable, and often unreasonably high and long, alimony obligations may be partly responsible for the fact that we have had a declining rate of marriage in recent years (interestingly, this particular point has indeed been made by the Alimony Reform Movement itself), and also for the fact that we have a very low rate of divorce relative to other states.

Indeed, the only studies of which I am aware point out that New England in general, and Massachusetts in particular, have the lowest divorce rates in the nation. (See the end of my earlier post on divorce and baseball for links on this issue).

Could it be that draconian, unpredictable, seemingly dreadful divorce laws have contributed to preserving many marriages? Here, I'm reminded of the male joke about not getting divorced because "it's cheaper to keep her." Also might it be possible that these supposedly bad laws prevent many who would otherwise eventually divorce from marrying in the first place? And is it so bad to have laws that make marriage a serious commitment, with very serious consequences? Indeed, that is how marriage used to be in this country before the advent of no-fault divorce. Funny, but some of the conservative, male critics of the current family law system are also the same ones who pine for those more traditional times.

Let me be clear. I believe the current alimony law in Massachusetts is in need of reform, because it too often leads to absurdly unfair results, as it fails to compel judges to limit alimony in the way most people today believe it should be limited, and in the way current economic and social realities suggest it should be limited. However, I am not at all sure that either bill under consideration would help or hurt lawyers in the modestly paid field of family law.

Many of the big problems with current alimony law in Massachusetts relate to the higher economic class of divorcing couples, who are more likely to be caught up in fights with opponents who have considerable assets and earnings, and who are therefore able to pursue "money is no object" battles in court. When the law is too vague, as I do believe it is, there is more at stake in such disputes, and wealthier individuals often believe, however wrongly, that they have no choice but to hire the most expensive, high-overhead law firms to fight spouses who have hired other expensive, high-overhead law firms, all to determine how much will be paid, and for how long, in spousal support.

If I had to guess, I would predict that the passing of the House bill, or any such extensive reform bill limiting alimony, might eventually lead people to marry more often, and earlier, and lead more already married people to get out of marriage when things go wrong; less cumbersome alimony obligations would be less of an impediment both to divorce and to marriage in the first place.

I imagine that with more reasonable alimony laws, we could see higher marriage rates and higher divorce rates, like those that currently exist for example in the state of Georgia, and other "red" states, where it is easier and less costly for the higher-earning spouse to get divorced (and by "costly" here I am referring to the total economic costs in a broad sense, not simply the narrow costs of paying legal fees). Perhaps only the nature, but not the size, of family law practice would thus change, as divorce lawyers would have more clients, but would also spend less time, and bill less, on each individual case; furthermore, high income and high conflict cases would likely account for a smaller percentage of client caseloads.

But all of this is speculation. Would the whole family law business shrink or grow with alimony reform? Who knows? Even if we could answer this, it is really the wrong question.

We really should be debating what the appropriate spousal support obligations of divorcing parties should be, period, rather than making speculative arguments about how different laws might affect a small sector of the legal services industry. Our alimony law should reflect what our community believes those obligations should be, and should reflect current economic and social realities. That is what is important.

The reason this misguided "conflict of interest" argument has gotten any traction is that angry individuals hate lawyers and judges, and not just the flawed law and legal system of which they are a part, and these guys are venting (for more on this, see my last post on this blog). It has all become personal.

By the way, if you're not already exhausted after reading this ridiculously long blog, you can find more level-headed, interesting, and even funny, comments on the issue of alimony reform in Massachusetts at Stephen McDonough's blog.

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

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Is Family Law a Masterful Scam? A Criminal Enterprise?

I thought I would reprint my response to a comment on my last post, which was on the issue of alimony reform, as I believe it deserves its own post here. Over the years, I have found some people to be so angry and bitter, after going through difficult experiences in the family law system, that they lose all sense of reality and become paranoid. I have thought about this again recently after reading my colleague, family law blogger Sam Hasler's post Paranoia and Divorce, which links to yet another very thoughtful post by British blogger Marilyn Stowe, Divorce is an emotional rollercoaster – but are you paranoid?

I have heard, read, and otherwise witnessed a surprising number of comments from prospective clients, litigants, and others, who seem truly to believe that the family law system is a corrupt, criminal enterprise. The comment below is a representative sample of that misguided belief. Following that is my response to the anonymous comment.

Anonymous said...
Reprint of blog on Boston Business Journal website in response to Lisa Van der Pool's article 9/18/09
"BBA BACKS BILL TO CAP ALIMONY" Take note. Senate bill 1616 seeks to do one thing and one thing only. That is, to keep the power to control your life, determine your future, and keep you under the jurisdiction of the courts until they feel they are done with you. Family law is a masterful scam not unlike TV wrestling. The lawyers and judges put on a great act in their pretend roles. But, the truth is they all belong to the same organization and they will never act on their own to stifle their own power to run the scam. Any legislator who doesn't act to stop it is an accessory to organized judicial crime. The Bar by seeking to give judges the power to determine alimony duration, knows that 1616 will rely on the honor of "his honor" who in the past has proven that he has no honor in the family court ring. They are all winking at each other because they know how easy it has been to pull the wool over the public's eye in the past. But when it comes to family law, "the emperor has no clothes".
Steven Ballard said...
Anonymous- most posts like yours I do not allow here. Since you make an ad hominem attack on all lawyers and judges in the family law system, rather than upon any single individual, I have allowed it to be published here, but only because it is representative of the response of so many who - though justified in being outraged - go over the top in their paranoia.

While there are very real biases and vested interests, family law is not a masterful scam or a criminal enterprise. People who are divorcing and fighting each other need to take responsibility for their own mistakes rather than simply blaming their lawyers and the system, and subscribing to inane, ridiculous conspiracy theories about lawyers and judges who are supposedly getting rich at their clients' expense.

Those who are in the legal system -especially including those within the most profitable, big law firms, firms which in fact do not even have family law sections, even as loss leaders, because they would be insufficiently lucrative -find comments such as yours to be laughable.

It's sad many people are so bitter that they actually believe this kind of conspiratorial crap. Many hate lawyers and judges so much that they can't even think straight, or examine basic facts.

One of those facts is that there are many very good people who work as divorce and family law practitioners and judges. Most of them in fact work very hard in a very difficult profession, dealing with very difficult people in contentious cases, and many of them also perform important pro bono work and public service in their communities, while generally earning modest incomes relative to others in the legal profession.

Change the law, improve the system, yes. But in your own individual cases, you should always take a good hard look in the mirror before assessing blame for problems in your own home.

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

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Of Two Alimony Reform Bills, House Bill is Far Better

There are two competing alimony reform bills currently pending in the Massachusetts legislature: Senate Bill 1616 and House Bill 1785. The Senate bill, backed by influential members of the Boston Bar Association, essentially would preserve the status quo. It would merely add language to the statute so as to give judges the explicit ability to set a duration for alimony - i.e. to set a term of years, depending on the circumstances.

The Senate bill would indeed improve current alimony law in this limited way. But it would do far too little. In fact, the Senate bill would not be sufficient to bring Massachusetts out of the realm of the absurd. Even with the passage of this modest single reform in the Senate bill, Massachusetts would remain way outside the reasonable norms for alimony, as reflected by the laws in almost every - if not every single other - state in this country.

The House bill, on the other hand, would effect real reform that would bring Massachusetts alimony law into much closer alignment with the alimony law of other states, as it more closely reflects current conventional wisdom on alimony. The House bill would require alimony awards to reflect current economic and social realities. Thus it would be much less likely that outrageous alimony awards, which lead to illogical and unfair economic results, would continue to be regularly negotiated and ordered in our family courts.

The House bill is much more intelligent, reasoned, and has the support of the Massachusetts Alimony Reform organization. However, unlike the Senate bill, which is now backed by the Boston Bar Association, the much more sensible House bill has a broad base of support beyond the most directly affected interest groups - that is, both those interest groups that have been formed by opponents of the current law, and associations of attorneys who would be more inclined to preserve the status quo. And that is why House Bill 1785 is already cosponsored by a very diverse group of 72 legislators, "liberal" as well as "conservative."

Please read both bills (see links above), and tell your House and Senate representatives which bill you favor. For more on this, see Bar association wades into divorce law spat - Boston Business Journal.

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

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Baucus Bullshit

Well, now we know: Baucus outlines health plan without GOP support - AP/Yahoo News. The Max Baucus Plan is awful.

Actually, the Max Baucus Plan Sucks. Well, I'd use even stronger words than that. Baucus Bullshit, I'd call it.

It would cost $856 billion, but some $500 billion of that cost would be paid out of cuts to Medicare. The plan, which would have no public option, would do next to nothing to cut costs, next to nothing to provide competition or otherwise to reduce stealing and killing by the health insurance mafia. In place of the old Kennedy bill, which would have cost much less, at about $600 billion, and which would have had a public option, the "Democrat" Max Baucus has been crafting this crap for the health insurance industry.

And that industry is the only entity that should be happy with it. In fact the industry is directly responsible for it. It comes as little surprise to me that it was actually a former vice president of WellPoint, now working for Baucus, who penned this Bullshit. See The Max Baucus WellPoint/Liz Fowler Plan

Under this plan, in a manner similar to that of the Massachusetts system ushered in by Mitt Romney, the middle class would be forced to buy health insurance from the health insurance mafia - if ineligible for employer-sponsored health insurance - or it would be financially penalized. Far from being "socialistic" this legislation would force individuals to pay too much for crappy coverage directly to the health insurance mafia. It would be like a tax requiring citizens to pay money not to the government, but to a private racket.

Meanwhile, we should expect this same health insurance racket to continue paying out only between 55 to 80 percent of the money it collects from us in premiums to pay claims, while in constrast, the supposedly inefficient government Medicare and Medicaid programs pay out around 95 percent of their funds for actual medical care. The health insurance racket, with the help of its lackeys in Congress, wants us to allow it to keep sucking up 20 to 45 percent of our money for administrative costs and profits, while doing nothing effective to bring overall medical costs down.

Well, I did not expect much more from our Congress. If this passes, in anything like the present form, we will have a "Democratic" bill that truly sucks, and the Republicans will later easily be able to show that it sucks, and then blame the "left" for wasting money on a program that screws the middle class yet again and does nothing to solve any problems. Not enough people will notice that it was the health insurance mafia that brought all this about. Instead they will believe the health insurance racket's propaganda, through the voice of the Republican Party, that it is the "left's" fault.

Machiavelli must be smiling.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Huffington Post on Health Care

More good stuff on the health insurance racket's attempt to prevent even the first step towards its own demise can be found in some recent articles in the Huffington Post. I have my doubts about the emasculated reform legislation that is pending, and am still quite angry that our supposed liberal, alleged representatives in Congress have refused to fight hard for a single-payer system, but if the currently pending health care reform bill, with a true public option, ever sees the light of day, there would indeed be a sliver of hope that eventually we will all have the single-payer system we need, and the health insurance racket would thus end up every bit as dead as the many patients who are now its daily victims.

It is interesting that a majority of doctors support a public option. Majority Of Doctors Back Public Option: New England Journal Of Medicine Study. Makes sense. And to that I say: Why can't we just take it one step further with a single-payer plan. We can't we just pay our doctors for care? Why do we have to pay the health insurance mafia as well?

Economist Dean Baker has predictably intelligent comments on the big government "conservatives" who serve the interests of the health insurance racket while pretending to do otherwise. Dean Baker: The Public Plan Option and the Big Government Conservatives

And finally, although not so recent (this one's from June) here's the following article, about the health insurance mafia. It's an oldie but goodie: Bob Cesca: The Health Insurance Mafia Deserves a Good Screwing

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Health Insurers Have Won Again - Of Course

Well, it seems pretty clear that the health-care "reform" bill will be a joke. Even if it were to have a public option, it would still be a joke, but without one, there will continue to be little to no hope that after several decades of struggle, paralleling the career of our late Senator Ted Kennedy, the good people of this country will ever have a humane and decent health care system.

Of course what we have needed for a long time is a single-payer system, privately delivered - by some of the best medical providers in the world - but publicly financed. It has been very interesting, and ironic, to see that some of the most vociferous supporters of the health insurance racket are in fact older individuals on medicare. All we need is to expand medicare to cover everyone - thus eliminating the waste, greed and inefficiency of the health insurance racket - and then we could join the ranks of the other rich, and not-so-rich, countries, that have long ago created humane health care systems.

But the writing was on the wall a long time ago. In early August, Business Week already reported that The Health Insurers Have Already Won ("The Health Insurers Have Already Won; How UnitedHealth and rival carriers, maneuvering behind the scenes in Washington, shaped health-care reform for their own benefit").

Our supposedly liberal Congressional "leaders" from Massachusetts, which has not a single Republican in Congress, were complete wimps and sounded like it when they wimped out on the issue of a single-payer system. "We don't have the votes," they said, in explaining why they would use their own votes, and clout, in a way to insure that we don't have the votes. Pathetic. Shame on you, Kerry, Frank et al. Your "efforts" should be chronicled in "Profiles in Cowardice."

With "liberal leaders" like these pretending to fight the cause for us, it is no wonder that we the people will once again lose to the health insurance racket, which continues to control Congress, along with all the other corporate lobbies. Whatever shitty bill is eventually passed will simply change our course in an insignificant manner, and the big problems will remain. We will continue to be plagued with an insane health insurance racket and the US will continue to be a place where barbaric social and economic inequality and injustice for the benefit of the rich will be the norm. Brave New Films tells the sad story:

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

Sunday, August 2, 2009

"Till Death Do Us Pay" - More on the Need for Alimony Reform

Finally, a little slice of la vida real in our Massachusetts family court system: Till Death Do Us Pay - Boston Magazine.

I'm encouraged to see such critical words from a local media source, in this case Boston Magazine. You definitely will not get such truth from the Boston Globe. And what a shame that is, as the Boston Globe is still the best newspaper we have in this state. Yet, by its gross negligence and incompetence in its reporting in the area of family law, the Boston Globe continues to hold back family law progress, even though it, together with its parent The New York Times Company, had earlier been so instrumental in pushing forward progress in the gay rights and gay marriage arena.

This is definitely a must-read article for anyone interested in the crazy world of alimony law in Massachusetts. I've written about this here before. Our archaic alimony law in Massachusetts has created a number of family law problems that should have been solved long ago. I do hope that reasonable heads will eventually prevail here, and that there will be a complete, extensive overhaul of our absurd alimony law and accompanying practices.

This article, though not perfect, provides a penetrating look into a system in great need of common sense overhaul, in this state which claims to be progressive, but is actually only selectively so. And when I say that I mean a system much broader than merely that which sustains a ridiculously outdated alimony system, but the entire family law system which is backward and unfair in so many other respects.

It is way past time that our state treated fathers and exhusbands and their children, along with all the various family units of which they are a part, with the same level of dignity as gay and lesbian individuals and female-headed households. Until that happens, Massachusetts will continue to be the oddball state, where progressive policies in favor of gay and lesbian couples (policies about which I believe we should be very proud) stand in stark contrast to backwards, archaic, protectionist, sexist policies that promote traditional family structures and female dependency in heterosexual relationships over independence, equality and justice.

And when I say policies, I mean not only laws - both statutes and rulings by our appellate courts - but also practices and other rules, written and unwritten, which continue to be perpetuated by the family law establishment.

Please read the article.

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

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Child Support Blues

If you think you have the child support blues, because of frustration in trying to receive or to pay child support, here's a real story for you. A minimum-wage-earning 29-year-old man in Knoxville, Tennessee, is already the father of 21 children with 11 different mothers. On second thought, I also should have mentioned frustration of the taxpayers, as they will in their own way undoubtedly be sharing the child support blues in this case as well.

Here's daddy on youtube:

Although this story appeared in the Huffington Post last month, I give my hat tip to Family Lore and Divorce Discourse, where I first found this interesting story in the blogosphere today.

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

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

New Hampshire Becomes Sixth State to Allow Gay and Lesbian Marriages

Well, now it has happened: the New Hampshire legislature passed the final version of its gay marriage bill and the governor signed it this afternoon. It will become law in January of next year: N.H. Governor Signs Gay Marriage Bill.


CONCORD, New Hampshire - New Hampshire became the sixth state to legalize gay marriage after the Senate and House passed key language on religious rights and Gov. John Lynch — who personally opposes gay marriage — signed the legislation Wednesday afternoon.

After rallies outside the Statehouse by both sides in the morning, the last of three bills in the package went to the Senate, which approved it 14-10 Wednesday afternoon.

Cheers from the gallery greeted the key vote in the House, which passed it 198-176. Surrounded by gay marriage supporters, Lynch signed the bill about an hour later.

'Today, we are standing up for the liberties of same-sex couples by making clear that they will receive the same rights, responsibilities — and respect — under New Hampshire law,' Lynch said.

Lynch, a Democrat, had promised a veto if the law didn't clearly spell out that churches and religious groups would not be forced to officiate at gay marriages or provide other services. Legislators made the changes.

Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, Vermont and Iowa already allow gay marriage, though opponents hope to overturn Maine's law with a public vote.

California briefly allowed gay marriage before a public vote banned it; a court ruling grandfathered in couples who were already married.

The New Hampshire law will take effect Jan. 1, exactly two years after the state began recognizing civil unions.


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

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Baseball Brings Down the Divorce Rate?

As recently reported by Nolo’s Divorce, Custody & Family Law Blog, cities that have acquired professional baseball teams have subsequently seen their divorce rates fall at faster rates than other cities that have wanted but did not get baseball teams. Nolo's blog points to last month's Business Week article which discussed the interesting study on this from the University of Denver's Center for Marital and Family Studies. Although I'm very skeptical - as I usually am with such social "science" studies - I am also a baseball fan, and as such, I really want to believe that baseball might actually bring down the divorce rate.

Many complain their spouses spend too much time watching that big game. But you know, perhaps we would have more marital disharmony if we didn't have that big game to watch.

Massachusetts in particular, and New England in general, have in many recent years boasted the lowest divorce rates in the nation. As Boston and New England have also had more than their fair share of winning sports teams in the last several years, maybe we need a wider study to test the broader hypothesis that spectator sports in general may be helpful in bringing the divorce rate down.

Usually far different reasons are suggested for such lower rates of divorce in New England than other regions of the country, such as the Southeast. For more on such comparisons between and among states, start with these two articles: To Avoid Divorce, Move to Massachusetts from the New York Times, and Blue Over You. Why Red States Have Higher Divorce Rates.

Who knows? While we await the answer to such questions, I say take me out to the ballgame, and Go Red Sox!

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

Maine Now Permits Gay Marriage; New Hampshire Will Likely Be Next

This past month, Maine has become the fifth state to legalize gay marriage. For the basic story, see the Huffington Post's article from earlier this month: Maine Gay Marriage Legalized. Meanwhile it seems New Hampshire is on the verge of approving same-sex marriage as well, although there is presently what supporters hope will only be a slight delay.

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

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Corri Fetman, of Sleazy Divorce Ad Fame, Sues Playboy

Thanks to John Bolch at the blog Family Lore, for the news that former divorce attorney, turned Playboy columnist, Corri Fetman, is no longer writing the "Lawyer of Love" column for the magazine, and is instead suing the magazine for sexual harassment, claiming over $4.5 million in damages for "gender violence" and emotional distress. You may recall that she became famous, and got her position at Playboy, after posing in sexy, provocative photos for a tasteless billboard ad for her Chicago law firm, as I have discussed here previously.

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

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Vermont Legislates Right to Gay Marriage

And yes, now it's happened in Vermont: Vermont has legalized gay marriage. Vermont legalizes gay marriage | | The Burlington Free Press. Yesterday, Vermont joined Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa and is now the fourth state with a right to gay and lesbian marriages. Unlike the other states before it, however, Vermont created this right through legislative rather than judicial enactment. After the governor vetoed the legislation, both houses of the legislature over-rode his veto. The new law takes effect September 1, 2009.

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

Friday, April 3, 2009

Iowa's Highest Court Institutes Gay Marriage; Vermont's Legislature Is Well On the Way to the Same Goal; New York Grants First Same-Sex Divorce

Wow, there have been quite a few developments on the gay marriage front - today, yesterday, and this past week. As Vermont moves closer to becoming, possibly, the first state to create gay marriage by legislative enactment, now that its House has joined the Senate in passing a bill that would permit gay and lesbian couples to marry there, Iowa today has become the next state to do it judicially, as have Massachusetts and Connecticut before it (and also, for a time, California, although that was short-lived): Iowa gay marriage ban ruled unconstitutional -

From the website of the Iowa Judicial Branch, you can find the summary/press release describing the decision, and the full decision as well.

Also, New York has now made good on its earlier promise to recognize gay and lesbian marriages performed in other states by accepting jurisdiction and granting divorces to such couples if and when they move to New York. The first such divorce was granted in New York this week. See Same Sex Divorce-Granted! - New York Divorce and Family Law Blog.

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

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Australian Divorce Blog

Another very good divorce blog I've recently discovered is the Australian Divorce Blog. We Yanks can learn a lot from it, just as we can from the family law blogs in the UK.

So, here's yet one more for my ever-expanding blogroll.

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

Nationalize the Banks Already

I must say, I find myself agreeing entirely with the following article by Matthew Rothschild in this past month's Progressive Magazine: Nationalize the Banks | The Progressive. The Obama administration, and Congress, are continuing the Big Heist begun by Bush, as the oligarchy continues to pull the strings of our federal government officials. As usual, there are only a few in Congress who are primarily representing the interests of their citizens, rather than just pretending to do so while actually serving the interests of the ruling financial elite. I still have hope for our government headed by Obama, who already has been an improvement, in so many ways, over Bush. Yet so often it seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Monday, March 30, 2009

New Massachusetts Divorce Law Blogs

Thanks to Kyra Crusco at the New Hampshire Family Law Blog for calling my attention to the fact that Nancy Van Tine, one of the very best and most experienced family law practitioners in Boston, has just started a new Massachusetts divorce law blog, the Massachusetts Divorce Law Monitor. Also my friend Steve Zlochiver, another excellent, experienced family law attorney in the Boston area, recently called my attention to the fact he too now has a blog, the Massachusetts Divorce Lawyer Blog. Add 'em to your blogroll, bookmark 'em, subscribe to their feeds. I'm always happy to see more blogs from which I will be able to borrow (steal?) ideas for my own blog!

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

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Recession, Pink Slips, and Child Support

Yes, we're in a recession, and that's obvious in family court, where pink slips have resulted in more child support modification cases: Fighting Over Child Support After the Pink Slip Arrives -

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

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Gay Marriage Coming Soon to Vermont? New Hampshire?

New England continues to be center stage in the gay marriage debate.

Both Vermont and New Hampshire each have legislative proposals that were recently approved by one of their legislative bodies to legalize gay or same-sex marriage. See yesterday's New York Times article, Gay Marriage, Set Back in One State, Gains in a 2nd -

New Hampshire's House of Representatives just narrowly approved its gay marriage bill this past Thursday, and its Senate may consider a similar bill but prospects do not appear to be good in this more conservative-leaning state. Vermont's Senate overwhelmingly approved its own bill the Friday before last, and its House is already actively considering a similar proposal. But both states have governors who are likely to veto the bills if they come before them. Governor Jim Douglas of Vermont has already stated he will veto the Vermont bill if it comes to his desk.

Vermont was the first state to legalize gay and lesbian civil unions. New Hampshire only created civil unions this past year. If the other legislative bodies also approve the bills in each state, and then can override the probable vetoes by their governors, then we will see a further expansion of gay marriage in this region.

It would hardly be a surprise to see one of these New England states become the next to join Massachusetts and Connecticut, as the only states currently and fully santioning the legal formation of gay and lesbian marriages. My bet would be on Vermont. Maybe not this year, but eventually.

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

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Best Divorce Cartoon

A colleague, who happens to be a psychotherapist and not a lawyer, just gave me a copy of the following New Yorker Divorce Cartoon a few days ago. The cartoon is very good and to publish it here I would have to pay more than I am willing to pay for the license, so if you want to see it, you will have to follow my link. But I may have to order a print of this myself.

The cartoon, by Mick Stevens, appeared in the January 12, 2009 New Yorker, and was part of the magazine's Caption Contest. It appeared with the following winning caption, suggested by reader Ann Seger of Chicago, Illinois: "For a divorce case, that went smoothly."

By the way (and to relate this to my last post), if this cartoon looks like it could serve as the illustration for your impending divorce, you are definitely not a candidate for do-it-yourself divorce.

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

A Fool for a Client? More on DIY Divorce

Now it is often said that he who represents himself has a fool for a client. But is that always true? When something very important is at stake, the answer is usually yes.

However, I was just quoted in today's Boston Globe, by relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein, in her short piece DIY divorce: Is it a good idea? - The Boston Globe. I appear in the article as the attorney who surprised the reporter by favoring do it yourself (DIY) divorce in some cases. Unfortunately, given the shortness of the article, my view that most divorces require legal representation, and that DIY divorces are only advisable, or even possible, in a limited number cases where there is really little in dispute, probably did not come through clearly enough. But the important counterpoint was provided by Attorney Laurie Israel, my friend from Brookline. Of course I think there are important truths in the comments by both of us.

If you're interested in the subject, see my previous post Massachusetts Divorce & Family Law Blog: NOLO, Its New Divorce Blog, and Do It Yourself Divorce and also see the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Library's blog post from back in January, discussing and linking to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's recent report on self-represented litigants: Massachusetts Law Updates: Self-Represented Litigants Report.

The fact is many people are taking their divorces, and family law representation, into their own hands, whether we like it or not. As a result our court system is reacting. Eventually, perhaps, there will be more unbundling of legal services, after the current experimentation with such unbundling of legal services in a few counties in Massachusetts has been sufficiently tested so that the results will give a greater degree of comfort to the judges, lawyers and clients who are trying this out, and consequently also to those of us who have not yet tried this out.

I do not believe one size fits all.

The longer I practice, and the more people I see, the more I am convinced that some people need no lawyers, while others should use a mediator, others could make very brief and efficient use of attorneys outside of court (unbundled legal services), others would be wise to choose collaborative lawyers, and still others should use more traditional divorce lawyers, and yes, sometimes even very aggressive trial lawyers who will have to take their cases all the way to trial.

I do imagine that some day it will not seem odd to find other trial lawyers, like me, who can openly acknowledge that many people should in fact handle their divorces on their own, or with minimal help from a mediator or a few attorneys outside of court.

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

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Dine and Dump

Advice columnist Meredith Goldstein of the Boston Globe had a great column this past week on "finding the perfect dumping grounds," exploring the art of picking the right restaurant in which to break up with your partner:
Finding the perfect dumping grounds - The Boston Globe.

Taking one's spouse to a nice restaurant and breaking the news over dinner is probably a better way to break up than completely surprising your spouse by sending a constable to serve him or her with divorce papers. Still, I don't know. There are some obvious, potential problems, as noted in the article. Indeed, there are many ways to break up, and probably none is easy.

Apparently Zagat has already published guides to the best restaurant dumping grounds in New York and Los Angeles. If you can't wait for Zagat to get around to publishing its guide for Boston, for now you'll have to read Meredith Goldstein's column for her ideas on the best dumping grounds here in Beantown. What would the criteria be, you wonder? What would make a restaurant a good place to dump your partner?

Well, one of the more interesting criteria, mentioned by the Zagat people and in the Boston Globe column, is the accessibility of exits. You've heard of the phrase "Dine and Dash"? If this style of dumping one's partner really catches on, maybe we will need even more the phrase "Dine and Dump" or even "Dine and Dump and Dash."

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

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Washington Gives Huge Holiday Bonus To Bank of America

Here's a little bit of news on the ongoing Big Heist, from video-journalist Robert Greenwald, on how the Bank of America used the $25 Billion in bailout funds our supposed representatives in Washington have already given to it:

Taxpayers have given Bank of America $25 billion in bailout funds to help jumpstart our economy, but instead the bank has misspent on executive salaries and corporate jets. Then Bank of America took even more money from cash-strapped states by not paying for workers' healthcare.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Fathers & Families Group Unsuccessfully Sought to Block Implementation of New Child Support Guidelines

The organization Fathers and Families ( has recently gone to federal court in an unsuccessful attempt to block use of the new Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines in our family courts. See The Docket » Blog Archive » Fathers’ group sues to stop new child support rules. I am writing an article on the new child support guidelines for a law journal, and am trying to keep an open mind as I continue to review and analyze these new guidelines. Otherwise, I would have already posted my analysis here after making brief comments on this blog right after the November announcement.

The new guidelines are now in effect, and have been as of January 1.

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