MASSACHUSETTS FAMILY LAW
Family law in Massachusetts is primarily governed by the following chapters of Massachusetts General Laws:
Family law matters are heard by the Probate and Family Court. Generally speaking, this court’s decisions are available only through Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, or from the court itself (though a select few Family Court decisions are available in the Massachusetts Family Law Journal). Practice in this court is governed by the Massachusetts Rules of Domestic Procedure. Cases are appealed to the Massachusetts Court of Appeals and to the Supreme Judicial Court. For help finding cases from those courts, see the Massachusetts Case Finding Guide.
Primary source materials for family law practice can also be found in two single volume collections. The first is Kindregan & Inker’s Massachusetts Domestic Relations Rules and Statutes Annotated , an annual publication, put out by West Publishing. It includes a copy of the Rules of Domestic Procedure, Child Support Guidelines, annotated statutes from the chapters noted above, other MGL sections which treat family law issues, and annotated federal statutes which deal with family law.
There is also the MCLE Family Law Sourcebook , compiled by Michael L. Leshin. This includes most of the statutes noted above, however the Sourcebook does not have the extremely useful annotations included in the Kindregan title above. There is a useful "Evidence Summary for Family Law Attorneys."
There are a number of excellent guides to family law in Massachusetts – both general guides, and subject specific handbooks. The following is a brief bibliography of available texts on family law. For a comprehensive bibliography of Massachusetts family law books in the Suffolk University Law Library, click here.
Family law manuals - General
Family Law and Practice – with forms 2nd edition . By Charles P. Kindregan, Jr. and Monroe L. Inker. St. Paul, MN : West Publishing Company, 1996. Volumes 1, 2, 2A, 3 of the Massachusetts Practice Series.
One of the best guides to family law practice in Massachusetts. It is well organized: volume 1 treats the statutes and rules governing family law, the law of marriage, and reproduction. Volumes 2 and 2A treat divorce, including alimony and child support, custody, etc. Volume 3 treats domestic violence, procedure for non-support, "The Child, The State and The Family," and a variety of support issues. The set also includes a great number of family law practice forms, both within the text and on disk. Published in 1996, with a 2001 pocket part. The set has an indexed in volume 3, and is also indexed in the Mass Practice comprehensive index. It is available electronically through Westlaw and the Westlaw Patron Access Terminal.
Massachusetts Domestic Relations 3rd edition . By John V. Harvey, Elaine M. Moriarty, and Marilynne Regan Bryant. Charlottesville, VA : Lexis Law Publishing, 2000. Volumes 9 and 10 of the Massachusetts Legal Practice Library.
Like the title above, this is a comprehensive guide to Massachusetts family law. It is written by two Probate and Family Court judges (one retired) and a practicing attorney. Each chapter treats a broad subject area, for example: "Grounds for Divorce" and "Child Support." Where the above title has a more in depth treatment of the topics, the current volumes include more on domestic procedure. For example, there are chapters on "Jurisdiction and Venue" and "Interlocutory Relief." Published in 2000.
Handbook of Massachusetts Family Law 4th edition. By Gerald D. McLellan. Boston, Mass. : Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, 1999
A less comprehensive work than the ones listed above, but still very useful for understanding the nuances of family law. The book is broken down into short chapters which treat a variety of family law topics. Even more so than the above titles, this work seems even more concerned with practice issues, such as venue, jurisdiction, and motion practice. The Handbook includes chapters on discovery, and trial tactics.
Family Law Manuals - Divorce
Massachusetts Divorce Law Practice Manual. Edited by Ruth Budd and Peter Zupcofska. Boston, Mass. : MCLE, 2000
An oustanding 2 volume guide to divorce law practice in Massachusetts. As with many MCLE reference handbooks, it is made up of individually authored chapters treating all aspects of divorce law practice. The authors are Probate and Family Court judges and practicing attorneys. Consequently, the material is succinct, practical, and quite useful. These volumes are also available in Westlaw, Lexis, and the subscription MCLE Library.
Massachusetts Divorce Law Practice Forms. Edited by Ruth R. Budd and Peter Zupcofska. Boston, Mass. : MCLE, 2000
The companion volumes to the above. The chapters in this volume are the same in the above volume - for example, chapter 9 in the manual is Alimony, and contains information on the statute, the court's interpreation of the statute, and it's practical application in divorce practice. Chapter 9 in the forms book is Alimony, and contains checklists of criteria for determining the division of marital assets, suggested "Requested findings from fact," etc. It includes forms on 3 1/2" floppy disk, and is also in Westlaw, Lexis, and the subscription MCLE Library. It is an invaluable companion to the above set.
How to Try Divorce Cases : Improve your negotiating skills and trial technique. Boston, Mass. : MCLE, 1999
These seminar materials provide an excellent overview of divorce cases, including effective trial advocacy.
Family Law Manuals - Adoption
Adoption and Reproductive Technology Law in Massachusetts. Boston, Mass. : MCLE, 2000
The first half of this volume covers Adoption Law in Massachusetts pretty comprehensively, including adoption into "nontraditional" families, and adoption within the Child Welfare system.
Family Law - Periodicals
Massachusetts Family Law Journal Charlottesville, VA : Lexis Law Publishing, 1983-
This journal contains very practical articles, often including sample forms or agreements, and a few selected cases from Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts of various counties. Unfortunately, it is not available online.
Compilation of sources and web design by Brian Flaherty, Reference Librarian
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please email: Rick Buckingham, Reference Librarian.
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