MAGAL is a professional organization of mental health professionals, attorneys, family service officers, judges, and academics who work in and with the Probate and Family Courts that are charged with resolving disputes over the custody of children. Typically, these disputes arise when married parents divorce, when unmarried parents separate, when separation agreements need to be modified, or when one parent wishes to relocate with a child outside of Massachusetts. In such cases, a judge may appoint a clinician or an attorney to investigate current custodial arrangements and perhaps to make recommendations about how those arrangements should be modified to account for dual residences or other changes within the family structure. Our members also work with the Juvenile Courts in cases involving the termination of parental rights.
Our mission is primarily one of education. First and foremost, we educate our members about legal and clinical best practices. We hold two major conferences annually, spring and fall, and supplement these with brown bag lunches and courthouse roundtables throughout the year. We own a listserv that allows members to share timely information about changes in court rules or procedures; to post questions and to share information about best practices; to provide assistance finding articles and other resources; and to host lively discussions about difficult or controversial topics. Under the supervision of the Probate and Family Courts, we provide litigants with written materials explaining how a GAL investigation proceeds and what they can expect from the process.
We are governed by a set of by-laws and led by an elected board that meets monthly. Our standing and ad hoc committees meet as necessary except for the education committee, which meets monthly. We have one general membership meeting that is held in the late spring over dinner and cocktails.
Membership, which is by application subject to board approval, is open to professionals with a practice or interest in child custody.