781.708.4445

info@levinedisputeresolution.com

Divorce Mediation Blog

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN: PRE-ARA ALIMONY PAYORS CAN’T STOP PAYING AT RETIREMENT AGE JUST BECAUSE THE LAW CHANGED Chin v. Merriot, Rodman v. Rodman & Doktor v. Doktor Part 4 (Why is everyone so surprised?)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

We return to the Supreme Judicial Court’s January 2015 alimony trifecta, because of comments that we have received since our 3 previous blog entries about these cases. Divorce lawyers are positively buzzing about the SJC’s rulings. We were critical of the cohabitation decision (Part 2) and fairly horrified by the downstream potential for wiping merger and survival distinctions from our practice (Part 3); but we were quite measured in our comment regarding the central question common to the cases: retirement age termination (Part 1).

Part of the reason was that the SJC had to make an important fairness decision about the retirement age question. One constituency (payors), or the other (payees), was going to pay the price for this binary outcome. Whether an SJC policy decision to protect pre-ARA recipients drove the court’s statutory construction, or if it emerged as its product, is a cart-and-horse question. We understood the fairness impact that resulted. They had to pick one.

What puzzles us now is why professionals in the field are shocked, as many are, by the retirement age decisions. Putting aside speculation about judicial motivations, we have to ask the question: if the legislature clearly and unequivocally intended that the retirement age termination provisions absolutely benefit pre-ARA alimony payors, it did not did not say so. In viewing the oral arguments (as we did), and in reading the statutory language, the only clear thing was that the payors’ advocates had to piece together disparate provisions in interpretive contexts, so as to construct and answer to their liking. They simply did not have the material to say:

    Here is the definitive dispositive language, Your Honors: “All alimony judgments, regardless of the date of their entry, shall be subject to M.G.L., ch. 208, §49(f). There is no contradictory language.”

If making retirement age termination universal were a signature legislative priority, the statute did not do a very good job of reflecting it. By giving the SJC two nuanced avenues from which to choose, and by making the point debatable, the legislature lost. This could have happened for any number of reasons, including:

  1. It was not a clear legislative priority (cue the protests of many of those involved with creating and shepherding the draft statute through the legislative process);
  2. The political process on Beacon Hill was just so fraught that in and among the various political pulls and tugs vagueness trumped specificity to get the deal done (wouldn’t be the first time);
  3. The bill was so sweeping in its reform scope that something was bound to go wrong in drafting (see, King v. Burwell and the unfolding fiasco about Medicaid subsidies on “state” health insurance exchanges);
  4. All of the above; or
  5. None of the above.

Whatever the reason, it happened. Be disappointed if you will; but don’t be surprised.



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



Delivered by FeedBurner

other articles


recent posts


tags

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