In the practice of high-stakes family law, it is imperative that attorneys stay up-to-date on the current law on a wide variety of legal issues, from child custody to international divorce. This fall's CLE conference organized by the American Bar Association's Section of Family Law was one of the most valuable ways to stay abreast of cutting-edge developments in family law.
Held Oct. 19 to 22, 2016, in Quebec City, Quebec, the sophistication of the topics the conference covered was matched only by the sophistication and beauty of the host city.
Topics covered in CLE sessions during the conference included such topics as "Spousal Support Guidelines in Canada and the U.S." and "Non-cash and Alternative Forms of Compensation." Of particular import to Bucks County family law cases were these sessions:
Intersection of Family and Immigration Law
As the number of communities across the country with significant or growing populations of immigrants increases, family lawyers and judges need accurate information about how immigration law does and does not impact family court proceedings. This workshop provided an overview of U.S. Department of Homeland Security policies and the legal immigration options that are available to protect immigrant crime victims, abused immigrant children and immigrant parents from deportation and removal. These issues become crucial in cases here in Bucks County in which the divorcing couple are battling for custody across borders. In such cases, the Pennsylvania divorce attorneys at Williams Family Law seek out highly qualified immigration attorneys to assist with clients' cases.
Marital Torts / Common Criminal Allegations
The idea that husbands and wives cannot sue each other is not always accurate. Today, spouses and ex-spouses can and do sue each other for breach of contract or a tort claim, brought for misconduct that occurred during the marriage. This CLE discussed a variety of marital torts and criminal allegations connected to family law cases, and these issues have surfaced in several Bucks County cases. In one particularly relevant case that I handled, a wife contracted a sexually transmitted disease from her husband, and I prepared to file a tort against him, separate and apart from the divorce. It is also possible to claim a tort in a case of domestic violence.
Marriage and Divorce in the Golden Years
As our population ages, most family law lawyers have seen more clients facing the end of a marriage in their golden years. This program addressed considerations such as the use of Domestic Asset Protection Trusts (DAPT) and other creative prenuptial devices; an analysis of alimony in a golden year's case; how assisted living and Medicare rules are affected by alimony; and planning issues for older divorcees, including long-term care, Medicaid/Medicare, Social Security, and VA benefits. Domestic Asset Protection Trusts are recognized in 16 states, but Pennsylvania is not one of them. As a result, some Bucks County-area residents have gone to Delaware to establish this kind of trust in order to protect assets. The legal issues regarding getting your spouse to agree to recognize the DAPT can be very tricky.
As a member of the ABA Family Law Section, and after having served in every leadership role, from treasurer to president, in the Pennsylvania Bar Association's Family Law Section, I know how much effort goes into organizing such intensive and high-quality CLE conferences. I salute the organizers for their work, and look forward to the 2017 conferences.