Executive Order

Executive Order  No. 184: Special commission on Probate and Family Court procedures relating to divorce, child custody, and family violence

Date: 09/23/1980
Issuer: Edward J. King
Mass Register: No. 225

Table of Contents

WHEREAS, the number of divorces in Massachusetts has tripled since 1960, with more than one out of every three marriages now ending in divorce; and

WHEREAS, the social cost of this rising divorce rate is measured in divided families, displaced homemakers, and an ever increasing number of children subjected to physically and emotionally absent parents; and

WHEREAS, we recognize the special impact of the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court on the lives of children and families experiencing the trauma of divorce, family violence and child custody dispute; and

WHEREAS, it is imperative that all government institutions touching the lives of families, in crisis act to strengthen families and keep them together to the maximum extent this is possible;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Edward J. King, Governor of the Commonwealth, by virtue of the authority vested in me as Supreme Executive Magistrate, do hereby order as follows:

1. There is hereby created a Committee, to be known as the Governor's Task Force on Probate and Family Court Procedures, to consist of at least twenty-one (21) members who shall serve without compensation. The members of the Committee shall be appointed by the Governor and shall serve at his pleasure.

The following persons shall serve as ex officio members of the Committee: the Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court Department of Trial Court, the Chairman of the Governor's Advisory Committee on Children and the Family, the Chief Legal Counsel to the Governor, and the Secretary of Human Services or their respective designees.

The membership of the Committee shall include: the President of the Massachusetts Senate or his designee, the Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives or his designee, a Register of Probate, a Family Service Officer, two (2) additional judicial officers of the Probate and Family Court designated by the Chief Judge, a representative of the Massachusetts Bar Association, two (2) attorneys in family law practice, private citizens, a social worker or other professional specializing in family counseling, and a legal scholar expert in family law.

From the membership the Governor shall designate a Chairperson and Vice-chairperson. Any vacancies which may occur shall be filled by the Governor in the same manner as the prior appointment.

2. The Committee is authorized and directed to advise the Governor on specific, concrete recommendations to standardize Probate Court procedures in divorce, family violence and child custody procedures, and to promote conciliation and mediation in court procedures wherever possible. The Committee shall have, at a minimum, the following functions and responsibilities:

A. To research and analyze the statutes of the Commonwealth relating to:

(1) divorce

(2) child custody

(3) contempt and enforcement of court orders

(4) modification of judgement

(5) interspousal violence

B. To review Probate and Family Court procedures in other states, identifying innovative programs in mediation and conciliation for possible adaptation in Massachusetts; and

C. To stimulate public awareness of the wide-ranging effects of divorce, of family violence, and of the growing complexity of family law.

3. The Committee may form other subcommittees from its own membership and is authorized to call upon any secretariat, office, department, board, commission, councilor other agency of the executive branch of state government under my jurisdiction and any officer, member or employee thereof, to supply such statistical data, program reports and other information and materials as the Committee deems necessary or appropriate to perform its work, and they are authorized and directed to cooperate with the Committee and to furnish it with such information or assistance in connection with such review and analysis and in connection with effecting such recommendations as may be developed for the implementation thereof.

4. In view of the critical nature of the problems and the need for comprehensive action, it is requested that the Committee conduct its affairs as expeditiously as possible.

5. The Committee shall submit a written report to the Governor of its findings and recommendations together with drafts of legislation necessary to carry its recommendation into effect. Said report shall be filed with the Governor not later than April 15, 1981.

6. This Order shall take effect immediately and shall continue in force through April 15, 1981, unless extended by the Governor.

Given at the Executive Chamber in Boston this 23rd day of September in the year of Our Lord one thousand nine hundred and eighty and, of the independence of the United States of America, two-hundred and five.

Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Secretary of the Commonwealth

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