781.708.4445

info@levinedisputeresolution.com

Divorce Mediation Blog

Pre-marital Cohabitation in Defining Marital Length Clarified

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

But, In Rejecting Normalized Income for Alimony & Accepting Early Valuation Date:
Why won’t the Appeals Court tell us what they really think?
BORTOLOTTI V. BORTOLLOTTI - Part. 1


Levine Dispute Resolution - Alimony

We have previously lamented the shortcomings of Massachusetts Appeals Court’s Rule 1:28 opinion practice, and the recent Bortollotti v. Bortollotti has us at it again, but that will have to wait until Part 2.


Today, instead, we focus on the court’s helpful clarification of the legislature’s provision that tasks trial judges with determining if and when a marriage may be construed to begin before its legal registration, for purposes of calculating the length of marriage, and the resulting presumed durational limit calculated under M.G.L., ch, 208, § 48. When we say it is helpful, it is not to say that we agree or disagree with the concept, but rather, that, like a puzzle part, it fills a gap that makes the statute more understandable and, therefore, more predictable in outcome.

The concept of a de facto relationship giving rise to an obligation normally associated with a legal one preceded the Alimony Reform Act (“ARA”), beginning with California cases involving child support by estoppel (obligations arising from unrelated-party voluntary undertakings and resulting reliance), to pre-marital contribution in equitable division cases (see, Liebson v. Liebson and Moriarty v. Stone) and, more recently and directly on point, judges’ grappling with the inequities of same sex couples who were divorcing after long relationships and fact-based economic unions, but to whom marriage was foreclosed until implementation of 2005’s Goodridge decision.

In ARA, the legislature expanded the notion to all marriages in the alimony context.

Section 48 allows the trial court to back-date the start of marriage for a “significant marital cohabitation that includes ‘economic marital partnership’”, per Bortollotti. In this case, the trial judge found that the parties had, in fact, cohabited before legal marriage, but that the wife had not contributed income to the partnership, therefore, an economic marital partnership did not exist.

With logic more parallel to actual marriage, and historic alimony law, the Appeals Court reversed, stating that the wife’s very economic dependence signified that the marital partnership had begun. They reconciled three ARA features: the enumerated criteria for awarding alimony; the “common household” needed to trigger a payor’s post-divorce right to demand redress; and the pre-marital issue, here.

Since economic dependence is one of the enumerated alimony factors, the appellate court reasoned, it will suffice to extend the length of marriage retrospectively, for alimony’s presumed durational limit purposes.

The holding is fairly simple. It will apply to many cases, sometimes with minor, and other time substantial effect. The most extreme, obviously, will be when this metric leads to a finding that a 19 ½-year marriage was preceded by a more than 6-month cohabitation with economic dependency, stripping the payor of any presumed durational limit whatsoever, especially where the payor is more than 16 years shy of full social security retirement age. We can expect that this aspect of those cases to be most hotly contested.

The next time, Rule 1:28 and why the rest of Bortollotti is frustratingly sparse.



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



Delivered by FeedBurner

other articles


recent posts


tags

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