Part 1

“Less parent conflict despite increased parental contact.”

Dare we say that this is a goal that any person of good will and common sense would support? All pros and no cons, right? But, what’s that got to do with the pretty bar graphs?

We had the great pleasure of attending Dr. Robert Emery’s return engagement with the AFCC Annual Symposium, in Waltham, on March 27, 2015. Dr. Emery -- psychologist, professor, author, mediator and divorced parent -- of the University of Virginia, spoke on “Parenting Plans and Shared Custody”, reviewing his research and that of other academic researchers.

To our delight, Dr. Emery led with data about the positive impacts of mediation on post separation/divorce parenting that he derived from his randomized 12-year longitudinal study of families who mediated with court custody disputes pleaded. His findings are remarkable, including that:

Twelve years later, parenting time contact between children and “non-residential” parent of at least 1 time per week occurred 3 times more frequently with mediated parenting plans than after custody litigation.

Twelve years later, telephone contact between children and “non-residential” parent of at least 1 time per week for occurred 5 times more frequently with mediated parenting plans than after custody litigation.

Twelve years later, the "non-residential" parent's participation in 10 ordinary and extraordinary activities of child rearing, from discipline to vacations, was consistently higher with mediated parenting plans than after custody litigation.

We are happy to say that few of our clients approach the point of any contested custody litigation, which all of Dr. Emery’s subjects did, making his data all the more remarkable. The “whys” are beyond today’s report, but Dr. Emery calls the link between mediation and good outcomes “cause” rather than mere “correlation”.

Who are we to argue?

Part 2

Today’s Guests

Recently, we had shied from guest contributors in our newsletters, to focus more on the LDRC Blog, but sometimes we just have to make an exception. Psychologist Linda Smith, who used to work the G.A.L. circuit in Greater Boston before re-locating her family and practice to Connecticut, is a founding principal in a new web-based enterprise, Child Custody Analytics. It caught our eye while attending the annual meeting of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers in Chicago, last November, where CCA exhibited.

CCA is a digital portal that provides support to anyone involved in the field -- clinicians, lawyers, and mediators – with the latest research, original articles and parenting guideline materials at your fingertip. Dr. Smith and her fellow founder Dr. Eric Frazer have created the piece below for our readers as an introduction. Please read it and poke around their website. I know that Linda or Eric will be happy to answer any questions that you may have.

Part 3

The Blog

We continue the work of the LDRC Blog, and the Massachusetts appellate courts have been keeping us very busy with a slew of alimony and other family law cases. Today, we feature the latest of 4 blogs on 3 cases that the Supreme Judicial Court issued on a single day in January. The cases are all controversial and interesting. Alimony is keeping everyone in the field on their toes.

We have also blogged recently about what we consider an oxymoron: mandatory mediation. The Massachusetts Appeals Court seems to agree.

As always, we invite you to read these selected pieces and any of the dozens of entries behind them, and as always, feel free to pick up the RSS feed to your inbox. Encourage your friends to do the same.

Part 4

Let them Eat Cake

Our Quote of the Quarter comes from an April 2d interview on NPR’s Morning Edition, with an Indiana pastor who supported of the unamended "religious freedom" statute that the state legislature and governor had just disavowed, to the extent of its potentially discriminatory impact on LBGT persons. Defending the right of bakeries to refuse wedding cakes to same sex couples, the clergyman, not satisfied with religious freedom aspects of the 1st Amendment, opined that:

“Cake is speech.”

We hope not. And, if it is, whose speech is it anyway?

Bill and Chouteau

Psychological Insights In Family Law

Drs. Linda S. Smith and Eric Frazer

A successful family law practice requires mastery of The Triad of key disciplines: Law, Finance and Psychology. Family lawyers address a variety of family-related disputes and transitions, including divorce, separation of parents, the development of parenting plans, and more. As you can see, all of these legal issues are also psychological and financial issues by nature. Family lawyers currently have instant access to legal research and information through a variety of legal technology solution providers (e.g., Westlaw and LexisNexis). They also have instant access to financial research and information through a variety of financial technology solution providers (e.g., Family Law Software and FinPlan). However, instant, easy access to psychological information, insights, and expertise has been missing. Until now. Historically, family lawyers have accessed psychological information and expertise through psychological experts who are brought in to serve in a variety of professional roles such as custody evaluator, consultant/expert witness, and treatment provider. Although psychological experts can often be helpful in these legal cases, they can only serve the needs of one family at a time. Thus, time and cost are often barriers for attorneys who need psychological resources and guidance. The client bears the same disadvantage. Because there historically hasn’t been easy access to these critical insights, creating a psychological framework for family law cases has not been feasible. Instead, psychological consultation and information is often brought in after significant issues have manifested within the family. The effort tends to be reactive and issue-focused, rather than proactive and strategic. read more...

No Country For Old Men: Pre-Ara Alimony Payors Can’t Stop Paying At Retirement Age Just Because The Law Changed

Chin v. Merriot, Rodman v. Rodman & Doktor v. Doktor Part 4 (Why is everyone so surprised?)


We return to the Supreme Judicial Court’s January 2015 alimony trifecta, because of comments that we have received since our 3 previous blog entries about these cases. Divorce lawyers are positively buzzing about the SJC’s rulings. We were critical of the cohabitation decision (Part 2) and fairly horrified by the downstream potential for wiping merger and survival distinctions from our practice (Part 3); but we were quite measured in our comment regarding the central question common to the cases: retirement age termination (Part 1). read more...

Mandatory Mediation is an Oxymoron that the Appeals Court Gets! (At least when the parties have to pay)

Ventrice v. Ventrice


Recently, a pair of “transformative” mediators claimed that without mandatory mediation, the pre-destined role of mediators as apostles of self-determination will never be fulfilled. We took the authors to task in the Winter 2015 Issue of the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediations’ Family Mediation Quarterly for many reasons, including this proposition. Putting aside the considerable irony that practitioners who seek to transform relationships, not content to merely settle disputes, think they can do so when people are compelled to pay them to do it, we are pleased to see that the Massachusetts Appeals Court is not similarly deluded.  read more...

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