The Massachusetts Appeals Court recently issued a decision in a divorce case called Jankovich v. Jankovich. It was a Rule 1:28 decision, which is primarily directed to the parties and, therefore, may not fully address the facts of the case or the appellate panel's decisional rationale. Rule 1:28 decisions are not circulated to the entire Appeals Court, and, therefore, represent only the views of the panel that decided the case. Also, such a decision may be cited for its persuasive value but, because of the limitations noted above, not as binding precedent. Still, this particular case addresses the issue of children's access to third parties, which we as family lawyers often encounter in contested divorce cases.
In a decision handed down on June 25, 2015, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recognized a "parental privilege" to use reasonable physical force to discipline a minor child as an affirmative defense in a criminal action. (See Com. v. Dorvil, 472 Mass. 1 (2015)).
The Supreme Judicial Court recently ruled, in a much-anticipated decision, that a parent has a right to court-appointed counsel when a third party is petitioning for permanent guardianship over his or her child. The decision in the case, the Guardianship of V.V., is of particular note because the SJC ruled on the underlying issue - whether a parent has a right to counsel in guardianship cases - despite the fact that the decision affecting the parties was moot, as the mother has succeeded in removal of the guardianship. It is highly unusual for courts to rule on cases that are moot. However, the court stated that, due to the importance of the issue, it was incumbent upon the court to exercise its discretion and provide an answer to the central question.
Louis C.K., one of my favorite standup comics, and the star of the FX series, "Louie," has a serious side. It stems in part from his experience as a divorced dad of two young girls and the effective co-parenting relationship that he has with their mother.
A Massachusetts state senator has filed a bill that could prohibit a divorcing parent from having sex in his or her own home. The bill states: "In divorce, separate, or 209A proceedings involving children and a marital home, the party remaining in the home shall not conduct a dating or sexual relationship within the home until a divorce is final and all financial and custody issues are resolved, unless the express permission is granted by the courts."
Often we are asked by separated or divorced parents, who are vacationing with their children overseas under the terms of their temporary orders or final judgments, whether a parental consent form or permission letter signed by the non-traveling parent is required. Although the United States does not formally require this documentation, we recommend that the traveling parent obtain such a signed and notarized consent form from the non-traveling parent, and that the agreements we draft contain a provision that obligates the non-traveling parent to provide such a consent form upon request from the traveling parent.