Divorce Mediation Blog

The SJC Weighs in on Self-Adjusting Alimony Orders and Recipient “Need”: Young v. Young, Part 1

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Levine Dispute Resolution - Alimony

With the long-awaited case Young v. Young, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) has revisited the important question of when may a trial court originate self-adjusting support orders, a subject that we have addressed here twice before. See, http://levinedisputeresolution.com/docs/Variable-Support-orders-3-28-16.pdf and http://levinedisputeresolution.com/divorce-mediation-blog/need-and-variable-support-orders-they-are-not-mutually-exclusive.

While the case does not address the situation where there is insufficient income to keep both parties living at the former marital standard of living, it does review and elaborate on existing precedent.

In a high income case of great executive compensation complexity, the trial court ordered the husband to pay to the wife a 1/3 share of all gross income that the husband receives going forward, rather than the fixed sum alimony that both parties sought, albeit in vastly different suggested amounts.

The core rulings of Young are neither complex nor novel on their face:

  1. Self-adjusting alimony orders are not per se prohibited, but they are to be limited to “special” though not necessarily “extraordinary” circumstances; and that
  2. Self-adjusting alimony orders that “intend” to elevate the recipient spouse’s standard of living above the marital station are prohibited

But, what does it all mean, really?

We will use Young as a jumping off point to address both its particular analysis and holdings, and to re-examine the curious case of variable support orders a/k/a self-adjusting support orders at large. We begin with just what is a variable support order and who uses them, then explore the analysis and implications of Young, and close (we think) with special problems in the area.

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