Matrimony Matters: Improving the Process for Families in Transition

April 24, 2006

The Fund for Modern Courts, together with the New York State Bar Association, sponsored a Continuing Legal Education program entitled: “Matrimony Matters: Improving the Process for Families in Transition”. This program highlighted the work of Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye’s Matrimonial Commission which was established to examine the divorce and custody determination process in New York State, and recommend reforms to reduce trauma, delay and cost to parents and children impacted by the system.

The forum was moderated by Hon. Ann Pfau, 1 st Deputy Chief Administrative Judge and Acting Supreme Court Judge, Second Judicial District. Panelists include: Hon. W. Dennis Duggan, Albany County Family Court Judge; Carla Palumbo, Esq., Director of Civil Legal Services, Legal Aid Society of Rochester, NY Inc., and Matrimonial Commission Member; Senator Malcolm Smith, NYS Senate, Assistant Minority Leader, Policy and Administration; and Daniel M. Weitz, Esq., Director, Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution, NYS Unified Court System, and Matrimonial Commission Member.


Panelists presented an overview of some of the reforms recommended by Judge Kaye’s Matrimonial Commission. The program included an examination of the different types of Alternative Dispute Resolution processes that have been effective in helping families involved in divorce proceedings resolve conflicts, and deal with the legal and emotional issues surrounding matrimonial and custody determinations. It also included a discussion of the Commission’s recommendation of enacting a no-fault divorce law, with Senator Malcolm Smith of the NYS Senate, speaking from a legislative perspective, and stressing that the political climate is ripe for change now. Senator Smith, Assistant Minority Leader of Policy and Administration has drafted proposed legislation amending the Domestic Relations Law by adding irreconcilable differences as a grounds for divorce. Judge Ann Pfau moderated the program, and also addressed how the recommendations of the Commission will be implemented.

The topic attracted a diverse audience including members of the legal community, domestic violence groups, mediators, family advocate groups, the National Organization for Women, League of Women Voters, legislative staff and employees of the Unified Court System.

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