Substantive dating relationship

The ruling said Massachusetts courts can determine whether a couple is in a substantive dating relationship by considering the nature, frequency and length of their communications and if either person has ended the relationship.

“Clearly the court took the case … on its own initiative because, I think, they wanted to address this issue of electronic dating and whether, under the statute, electronic communication could form the basis of a substantive dating relationship — which is one of the basis under the statute which gives the court the authority to issue an abuse order,” said lawyer Mark Engel, who represented Compton in the lower court.

Robert Peck, an attorney for the girl’s father, said in a telephone interview from Salem that the decision recognizes that more people are using various forms of social media to communicate and establish relationships in real time.

What the Supreme Judicial Court “has done is to bring the reality of today into clear focus” for applications under domestic abuse laws to relationships formed by previously nontraditional means such as the Internet, Skype, Facebook, and instant messaging, Peck said.

The girl’s parents discovered the communication and her father secured the restraining order, which was served to Compton after he arrived at an inn near the family home in November.

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the man’s conduct did not rise to the level of abuse because he did not harm or try to harm her physically, and did not cause the girl to engage in a sexual relationship by force, threat or duress. Those standards are set under a state’s domestic abuse law that enables adults, children and others living in a home to secure a restraining order directing someone to refrain from abuse or contact.

The court also found that the teen was capable of agreeing to sex because she is older than the state consent age of 16.

“The defendant’s passing references in his electronic communications with the daughter implying that he might furnish her with alcohol, while understandably reprehensible to the father, is not evidence suggesting physical abuse or evidence that the defendant planned to give alcohol to her in order to have involuntary sexual relations with her, certainly a form of physical abuse,” the court said. “We conclude that this conduct does not meet the definition of ‘abuse'” under the state domestic abuse law.

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New lines

Neiman Marcus Group’s Bergdorf Goodman in Manhattan recently expanded its children’s wear department by a third to devote more space to Gucci and the new lines like Oscar de la Renta. For fall, the prices range from $4 for hair bows to $5,200 for an exclusive Christian Dior silk party dress handmade in France.

“We’re definitely growing,” says Andrew Mandell, Bergdorf Goodman’s vice president and divisional merchandise manager of home and children’s wear. “This is a whole new realm. And when you have our customers so fashion forward, they eat this up.”Colleen Sherin, fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, says both parents and grandparents are willing to spend on “unique, special” fashion items. “They’re just not looking for basics.”The bigger trend, however, is designers creating free-standing shops devoted to kids, says Faith Hope Consolo, who leads retail leasing and marketing at Prudential Douglas Elliman.Following in the footsteps of Gucci, Italian fashion house Giorgio Armani will be opening this fall its first U.S. store devoted to children in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Armani launched its children’s business in the U.S. in 2009.The Armani store, which targets newborns to teenagers, will feature items priced from $50 to $500, says Armani spokesman Christian Langbein.Some parents who are splurging say they also mix in shopping trips to Gap or other less-expensive stores, but see the designer duds as a confidence booster.”I really believe when she dresses like this, she feels better about herself,” added Sandler, who shops for pricey children’s clothes at Barneys New York as well as a New York women’s clothing store called Edit, which now has a designer children’s wear section.Manhattan resident Kelly Mallon, 39, says she’s proud that her 9-year-old daughter Madeleine has developed her own fashion sensibility.”I love seeing my child well-dressed. It makes me happy. It makes her happy,” says Mallon who outfits her daughter in accessories from Italian designer Missoni and tops from designer Milly’s year-old children’s line called Milly Minis. “It’s not a little girl playing dress up. She’s in her own clothes made for her.”

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