Divorce Mediation Blog

Important Arbitration Case Pending: May Have Particular Impact on Family Law

Monday, January 18, 2016

We read with interest about the pending case Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) case, Katz Nannis & Solomon, PC v. Levine (no relation), in the October 12, 2015 issue of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. Holland & Knight’s Attorney Gordon P. Katz wrote “SJC to Consider Expanded Review of Arbitrators’ Awards”, about the case, a civil action between estranged shareholders of an accounting firm. The question on appeal arises from an arbitration agreement; and specifically whether or not parties can bind each other and the court to rights of review that are broader than those that are set forth in the Massachusetts version of Uniform Arbitration Act.

M.G.L., ch. 251, § 12 limits the right to vacate an arbitral award to the grounds of: corruption or fraud; evident arbitral partiality; exceeded authority; and arbitrator’s refusal to grant a continuance sought with reasonable cause; or failure to admit material evidence. The contract in Katz case added that a court could overturn an award if it were based on “material, gross and flagrant error”, a higher threshold for appeal than provided in civil litigation, but broader, certainly, than §12. The SJC should rule on the matter sometime next year

One of the more frequently cited impediments to the growth of divorce arbitration, despite its manifest opportunities (efficiency, expediency, convenience, privacy, cost and control of selection of decision-maker), is that lawyers are deterred by the general loss of appellate rights. While everyone is well aware that appeals are rare, lengthy, obscenely costly, often inconclusive and always unpredictable, they are slow to relinquish the fail-safe for the true outlier result that they may encounter. We certainly understand the defensive impulse: divorce litigation clients are among the more litigious with their lawyers, post-divorce.

We have long believed that the law should allow people to agree to that level of review that they, as competent contracting parties, feel is appropriate. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Model Family Law Arbitration Act, includes the right of parties to elect appeal of errors of law to the trial court judge, in the first instance, then to the appellate level. The local AAML has advanced a Massachusetts version of that model act here, without success so far. It, too, contains that right to vary review and appeal provisions.

We hope that the SJC recognizes this important contractual right; and that if they do, divorce lawyers will take another look at matrimonial arbitration.

We’re always happy to talk.

Get e-mail notifications of new blog posts! Enter email address below.:

Delivered by FeedBurner

other articles

recent posts


Chouteau Levine arbitrator divorce arbitrators Twinkies divorce arbitrator family law Baseball Players mediator divorce mediations special master Divorce dispute resolution Matrimonial Arbitration alimony statute Defense of Marriage Act IRC §2704 med/arb family law arbitrator lawyer annulment mediators alimony divorce mediation family law mediation divorced pre-ARA alimony facilitated negotiations Massachusetts alimony and child support family support Baseball support orders Alimony Reform Act resolve disputes Act Reforming Alimony in the Commonwealth child support mediations MLB labor agreement divorce mediator divorce agreement Same Sex Marriage LDRC litigation family and probate law disputes how baseball arbitration works divorce litigation Self-adjusting alimony orders Levine Dispute Resolutions alimony reform legislation Levine Dispute Resolution Center Family Law Arbitration DOMA divorce arbitration lawyer-attended mediation disputes divorce and family law mediators Massachusetts alimony Boston med-arb divorce judgment family mediation fraud self-adjusting alimony arbitration alimony law Massachusetts lawyers Child Support Guidelines Baseball Arbitration family law arbitrators Major League Baseball Arbitration COLA Massachusetts divorce mediators Cohabitation medical benefits The Seven Sins of Alimony mediation high-risk methodology alimony orders Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly Uniform Arbitration Act lawyers traditional negotiations private dispute resolution rehabilitative alimony health coverage divorce lawyers divorce mediators conciliation separation Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act SJC Obamacare Divorce Agreements health insurance Levine Dispute Resolution Center LLC Massachusetts divorce process divorce and family law General term alimony Levine Dispute Resolution arbitrators