WE HELP FAMILIES RESOLVE CONFLICT PEACEFULLY


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Divorce Court isn't Fair. Get over it.

In many divorce cases that end up litigation, at least one of the spouses is not doing something they are supposed to do. A spouse who refuses to abide by court orders or the discovery rules can delay the process and drive up the costs for both parties. These situations often lead to the following exchange with clients, both during and after their divorce:

Client: My ex is not making a payment that they agreed to make, and which was included in the court order.

Attorney: Have you discussed it with them?

Client: Yes, but they still refuse.

Attorney: Okay, if you would like us to help with this issue, then we will start with a letter or phone call indicating that the payment should be made immediately. If they don't respond by the deadline then we can file a Complaint for Contempt. If there is an emergency then we can request a quick hearing, but that will require an extra court appearance. Otherwise we will have a court hearing in about one month. We will have to serve them with the summons, and we can request those costs and attorneys fees be paid as part of the Contempt order, but there is no guarantee the Judge will include those sanctions.

Client: Why should I have to pay you to do this? Why should I have to pay to serve them? This is something they were supposed to do.

Unfortunately, none of the answers that I can provide to these questions are satisfying because the client is right: the Client shouldn't have to pay to force the opposing party to do the right thing. It's not fair. But life isn't fair. 

Many clients are just voicing their frustration when they say this, and we make every effort to hear our client's frustration so we can help. However, sometimes clients truly don't want to have to pay their attorney or a constable to enforce the court order. The sheriff or constable who serves the Complaint for Contempt, and the lawyer who represents the client are not responsible for the opposing party's behavior and they should both be paid for their time and services. In a perfect world, the party violating the agreement should bear any costs of their wrongdoing. But this is not a perfect world, and court orders, if not enforced, are simply pieces of paper that don't make people do anything.

Click here to learn more about filing a Complaint for Contempt.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Combating Domestic Violence in the Workplace

President Obama recently issued a Memorandum to the heads of the executive departments and agencies regarding Domestic Violence in the workplace.  The memo requires the Office of Personnel Management to establish policies to better assist victims of domestic violence who are federal employees.  According to the memo, the CDC estimates that $8 billion dollars in productivity and health care costs are lost every year due to domestic violence.  This is in addition, of course, to the personal and family losses that are also caused by domestic violence.

We often forget that the President is not just a political, foreign and domestic leader, but that he is also the C.E.O. of the federal executive branch, which, including the armed forces, employs more than 4 million american citizens.  Therefore, the policies of the president's administration on issues such as domestic violence affect a large percentage of the american workforce.

Specifically, the memo requires OPM to issue guidance on policies

"to prevent domestic violence and address its effects on the Federal workforce. The guidance shall include recommended steps agencies can take as employers for early intervention in and prevention of domestic violence committed against or by employees, guidelines for assisting employee victims, leave policies relating to domestic violence situations, general guidelines on when it may be appropriate to take disciplinary action against employees who commit or threaten acts of domestic violence, measures to improve workplace safety related to domestic violence, and resources for identifying relevant best practices related to domestic violence;"

While it remains to be seen how this will be implemented (especially in an election year), the goal of addressing all of these issues with directed policies is commendable, and should be a model for all employers.  Not only will having policies in place to address domestic violence help your staff know what to do in these situations, addressing the issues will result in a safer and more productive work-force.

If you want to learn more about the resources available to help domestic violence victims in Massachusetts check out these resources available on the Massachusetts State website, and seek help.  If you or someone you know suffers from Sexual or Domestic Violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE for immediate assistance.

For more information about Abuse Protection Orders in Massachusetts, visit our Restraining Order webpage.


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