In our last 3 entries we described baseball arbitration, how it may apply to probate and family law property matters, and some drawbacks in property and probate settings. We conclude here pitfalls of baseball arbitration in family law support matters.
All Massachusetts family law support statutes have pockets of discretion reserved to the court. In our new alimony statutes, there are many areas where the court may make discretionary decisions and deviate from statutory presumptions and guides, including: the type of alimony, the length of alimony, the amount of alimony, the retirement age cessation of alimony, the impact of cohabitation, the allocation between alimony and child support for tax purposes and income imputation. When applying the child support guidelines, despite their formulaic nature, a judge can exclude income source form consideration, impute income and determine allocation of the costs for “extras”.
As with property, an arbitrator may have a very different “take” on how to allocate income between the parties. A level of creativity may be applied to analyzing support matters, especially in the area of taxation and creation of incentives. Baseball arbitration, where the decision-maker loses the discretion to make an award that has not been proposed by one of the parties, may cost the parties the benefit of a truly objective look at their situation, and a surprising and maybe mutually beneficial result..
Baseball arbitration is not for every probate or family law case, but it bears careful consideration in many.