In civil litigation, which includes cases in the Probate and Family Courts, the American rule generally dictates that each party is responsible for its own attorney's fees and expenses. However, there are some exceptions to this, and in Massachusetts some 'fee-shifting' statutes provide for one party to cover the other's legal costs, particularly in domestic relations or family proceedings.
In Leon v. Cormier the MA Appeals Court upheld a contempt judgment against a mother who violated a parenting coordinator's order related to the mother's e-mail communications with the father. Specifically, the parenting coordinator ("PC") ordered that "as a rule, emails between [the parties] should . . . occur during . . . designated Tuesday email time. The ONLY exceptions are in the case of significant emergency or a necessary change in logistics that must be established for something that is to occur prior to the next Tuesday email time."
The cross-border enforcement of child support has long bedeviled parents and children who seek a delinquent parent's compliance with a court order. Given the many difficulties inherent to the enforcement of court orders in foreign jurisdictions, as well as the heavy costs associated with those efforts, many parents had a difficult time registering and enforcing child support orders if the debtor was in another country.
During a contested divorce or paternity action involving minor children, and often long after the case is formally resolved, some parents face ongoing disputes over "day to day" matters such as whether Fitch Law Partners LLP should participate in two extracurricular activities or three. The failure, inability, or outright refusal of one or both parents to communicate and reach an agreement with respect to these matters can lead to repeated court appearances and thousands of dollars in legal fees. In order to provide parties a forum for efficiently resolving such disputes, as well as assistance with learning to better communicate and co-parent, many parties will agree or be ordered to engage a professional parent coordinator ("PC").
In a recent decision [Hoort v. Hoort, Mass. App. Ct., No. 12-P-1853, slip op (May 28, 2014)], the Massachusetts Appeals Court reversed a Probate and Family Court Judge's finding of civil contempt against a husband, when the husband was not found in contempt for the exact same issue in a prior contempt action brought by the wife only one year earlier.
To make it easier for parties who enter written agreements for modification to have such agreements incorporated into enforceable court judgments or orders, Rule 412 has been expanded beyond judgments and orders regarding solely child support, and now include uncontested modifications of other child-related judgments and orders, including those related to custody and medical insurance coverage.
Although a "final judgment of divorce" terminates a legal marriage between spouses, all too often, the parties will remain embroiled in litigation for years to come, particularly with respect to issues surrounding the care and custody of their minor children. Even the most well-drafted parenting plan cannot anticipate and preemptively resolve all of the disputes that inevitably arise when raising children, and the failure, inability, or outright refusal of one or both parents to communicate and reach an agreement with respect to these matters (such as whether Susie can get her ears pierced, if Johnny can sign up for football, and which parent should be responsible for picking up the children on a snow-day) can lead to repeated court appearances and thousands of dollars in legal fees. While child-related issues can always been modified upon a material change in circumstances, and some matters genuinely require the court's intervention, many of these "day to day" disputes can be efficiently and cost-effectively resolved by the appointment of a "Parenting Coordinator" ("PC").
Registering a child support order that was obtained in another state or even in another country is accomplished in Massachusetts by following the procedure outlined in M.G.L. c. 209D. Otherwise known as the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act ("UIFSA"), this statutory scheme allows petitioners to register and enforce child support orders here in Massachusetts even though they were obtained in another state or country.
Upon the filing a Complaint for Divorce, the spouse initiating the divorce action, the plaintiff, becomes subject to the Automatic Restraining Order under Massachusetts Supplemental Probate and Family Court Rule 411. The spouse, who must respond to the plaintiff's action, or, in other words, provide an Answer to the Complaint, is the defendant; and he or she becomes subject Rule 411 upon service of process, i.e. when a Constable or Sheriff serves the defendant with the Summons and Complaint.