American Bar Association

International child related issues on the rise.

As the Chair Elect of the ABA’s Family Law Section, I have made it clear that one of my priorities will be to focus on international custody issues. Given the many widely reported cases of international kidnapping and custody battles, such as the Goldman case, it seems we must focus more on these situations to protect all children.

But now there are much more complex issues relating to children across the globe which go beyond mere custody battles. Issues such as surrogacy and adoption. What if one country’s laws do not allow for a certain type of adoption or a certain type of articifial insemination? There are now ways to work around laws in one country by using another country as a vehicle for certain procedures. And this can be dangerous.

A recent Wall Street Journal article entitled “Assembling the Global Baby” discussed these issues in fine detail (click here for a link to the story). There are American companies orchestrating surrogacy and reproductive technology across the globe. While the term “orchestrating” may sound negative, that was not my intent. My intent was to demonstrate the internationalization of child related issues. What body or organization will set the rules? Is this something for the United Nations to look at? Conferences like The Hague will certainly look at these issues, but then a country’s willingness to sign a treaty is purely voluntary.

This internationalization of child birth, adoption and reproduction may be a very good thing. It seems very well intended. The problem is with the unintended consequences. When things go wrong, who is accountable? Which country’s laws apply? Is it more important where the birth occurs, where the semen was taken, where the parties live or which country the egg came from? These are fascinating issues that we must consider before they overwhelm us. I have no idea where we go from here, but I am sure that we need to start asking the right questions which will hopefully lead us to the right answers, or at least to the right forums and formats for seeking comprehensive answers to these emerging issues.


ABA Family Law Section to meet in Fort Worth

This Wednesday through Saturday, the ABA Family Law Section hosts it’s annual Fall seminar (next October we are meeting in Las Vegas). True to form, the programming is excellent, filled with excellent speakers on excellent topics of interest to family law practitioners. New and interesting topics include “Using Stock Options and other Executive Compensation to fund Alimony” and “Parenting Plans for Children Under 3”. There will also be debates/discussions about many far reaching issues, including the need for a uniform act on child support guidelines and the Model Act of the Representation of Children.

Of course, the informal education that comes from the interaction of lawyers from across the country between sessions cannot be overestimated. I look forward to seeing many old friends and to meeting new ones this week in Fort Worth.

The brochure for the program can be found at: http://www.abanet.org/family/events/fall10brochure.pdf

If I can answer questions, before during or after the program, please let me know.


AICPA National Forensic Accounting Conference

Today I presented on Hot Topics in Family Law for the AICPA National Forensic Accounting Conference in Boston, Massachusetts. These CPAs were very interested and interactive. They asked probing questions and really seemed eager to learn. It was very refreshing and a little intimidating. They wanted to learn and asked some great questions. The gist of the program was a combination of technical legal issues combined with practical application. Or, what are the rules, and how are they applied. They seemed to know the rules and focused more on the nuances, the exceptions and the practical application: do judges follow the rules; how can you argue one position one day and another the next day for a different client and other tough ones.

But perhaps more important than the program was the interaction before and after. Interacting with professionals who are so vital to family law practice and who can help quickly resolve financial differences and disputes made me realize not only how important it is to rely on experts, but easy it can be. Once an expert, such as a forensic accountant, understands the basics of family law litigation, they can save lawyers time and clients money. I am looking forward to consulting even more with such experts in the future, and to more joint learning programs. In May, 2011, the ABA Family Law Section will host a joint conference with the AICPA in Las Vegas to help young forensic accountants and lawyers get a headstart in understanding each other and how we can all work together to help our mutual clients.


ABA Section Officers Meeting

Each Fall, the American Bar Association holds it’s annual Section Officers Committee meeting in Chicago. This year it begins this week. Each section, division, forum, etc. of the ABA has officers who are new each year. Those officers all come to Chicago to learn how to best perform their roles as Secretary, Vice Chair, Chair-Elect, etc. of their particular group (for me it will be as Chair-Elect of the Family Law Section). It is great to be around so many lawyers who are committed to improving the practice of law. Each lawyer sacrifices two to three days of work to be at the meeting, yet it never feels like a sacrifice. There are “big picture” discussions about the general practice of law, things we can do to help our communities, things we can do to help educate the public about new laws and how we can improve the overall workings of the entire ABA. There are also “small picture” discussion groups focused on how we can each help our particular group (family law, business law, criminal law, etc.). Click here to see the SOC page on the ABA website describing SOC.

While some may say it is inconvenient, especially since each of the officers attending also typically attend four or five other ABA programs each year, including a Spring and Fall program for their area of law as well as the ABA annual and mid-year meetings, it is valuable. It is a chance to step aside from the basic programming and educational aspects of the ABA and to focus on how we can each use our strengths to better our individual areas of practice as well as the ABA as a whole. I am looking forward to it and to actively participating. It feels good.


ABA Annual Meeting Finale coming up

What an annual meeting! The CLE programs have been wonderful, and for those of you still here in San Francisco at the 2010 ABA Annual Meeting, there is one more “MUST-SEE”. At 10:30 am today (Sunday), there is a presentation on “Trying High Profile Cases in a 24/7 New Media World”. What is amazing is who is on the panel of presenters. Among the five panelists will be David Boies, who just successfully argued and tried the Proposition 8 case. Is it possible to have another presenter as timely as him? Yes, The Honorable Vaughn Walker, the judge who decided that case will be on the panel as well. Many ABA groups are co sponsoring the program and I am sure it will be packed, so I just hope there is room for everyone who wants to attend, including me which means we should all get there early.

There has already been a tremendous amount of educational information sharing, but to be in San Francisco and to get to go watch and listen to the lawyer and judge who just tried one of the most intriguing and possibly society-changing cases in our lifetime makes it worth rising early and standing in line to listen, watch and soak in as much as possible before this 2010 Annual Meeting ends. I am looking forward to the program and I look forward to learning from it and sharing.


ABA in San Francisco

What a time for the annual ABA meeting to be in San Francisco. I land in 20 minutes and it already feels like there is a buzz in the air. The plane is filled with Georgia lawyers all headed to various ABA meetings for different areas of the law.

But it is in San Francisco and same sex marriage has just been judicially approved with the striking down of Prop 8. I look forward to the feel of legal interest and discussion throughout the city. And I imagine that our group, the Family Law Section will be discussing it ad nauseum. I look forward to seeing what my peers have to say, especially those from California.

I hope I always feel this same sense of excitement about the law and our legal system. By no means is it perfect. But unless good men and women continue to debate, discuss and challenge our laws, the system would stagnate and eventually fail.

I am proud to be a lawyer and a member of the ABA. I look forward to learning and sharing over these next few days.