Argued December 2, 2014
Complaint for divorce filed in the Hampden Division of the Probate and Family Court Department on December 28, 2010.
The case was heard by Anne M. Geoffrion, J.
William M. Driscoll for the husband.
Bradford B. Moir for the wife.
Present: Rapoza, C.J., Vuono, & Meade, JJ.
[26 N.E.3d 1129] Meade, J.
After a trial and subsequent hearing in the Probate and Family Court, the defendant, Michael Charles Ventrice, appeals from certain provisions of an amended divorce judgment nisi. In particular, Michael appeals the provision ordering that [26 N.E.3d 1130] he and the plaintiff, his former spouse Diane Lynn Ventrice, shall engage in and pay for court-directed mediation before either may file any subsequent action in the Probate and Family Court. Michael also contends that the judge abused her discretion by awarding Diane sole legal and physical custody of three of the couple's four children. For the reasons that follow, we vacate the amended divorce judgment and remand to the Probate and Family
Court for additional proceedings.
We recite facts found by the judge, and accept as true other essential uncontroverted facts from the record. Miller v. Miller, 448 Mass. 320, 321, 861 N.E.2d 393 (2007). Michael and Diane Ventrice were married in June, 2001. They had four children, who, as of the time of trial in May, 2012, were between the ages of twelve and five: Linda, the oldest, followed by Susan, Agatha, and Matthew, who was youngest.,
During their marriage, Michael and Diane owned and operated a business known as Big Adventures, a children's play center, in Westfield. The couple alternated working at Big Adventures and staying home with the children. Michael was the primary caretaker for about four years, while Diane worked extended hours at the business. At all other times, Diane was the primary caregiver for the children. Michael performed construction and snow-plowing jobs on the side for extra money, while Diane was working as a security assistant.
Diane filed for divorce in December, 2010. It was clear from the record and undisputed that the marriage was irretrievably broken. During the pendency of the divorce, Diane began a relationship with Michael Clegg, a previously convicted sex offender. Diane asserted that Clegg was supportive of her and her children. However, because Clegg had not yet undergone a psychosexual evaluation, the court ordered that Clegg ...