781.708.4445

info@levinedisputeresolution.com

Divorce Mediation Blog

What does Katz, Nannis say about family law arbitration? Katz, Nannis & Solomon v. Levine – Part 2

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

In our last entry, we commented on the Supreme Judicial Court case that recently held contracting parties to the tightly limited review provisions of the Massachusetts version of the Uniform Arbitration Act, M.G.L., ch, 251 ("UAA"), and barring contractual terms that broaden review. Katz, Nannis was a civil action involving the involuntary of ejection of a partner from a CPA firm, and a dispute over enforcement of an arbitral award denying him exit benefits, and assessing damages for breach of non-compete provision, all pursuant to the principals’ election of binding arbitration in their business agreement.

Today, we wonder how that may impact current state of family law arbitration, here.

The most prominent family law appellate case in Massachusetts is Reynolds v. Whitman, 40 Mass. App. Ct. 315 (1996), wherein the prime issue was. "… whether alimony and child support were properly made the subjects of voluntary and binding arbitration pursuant to a separation agreement." Id., at 316. The former husband, aggrieved by an arbitrator's award, argued that arbitration of this dispute violated public policy.

The Appeals Court disagreed, finding the arbitration provision enforceable and the award properly confirmed. Underscoring its view of enforceability, the appellate panel noted that:

    Rather than discouraging arbitration of domestic disputes, the cases support it. Arbitration may offer a more efficient resolution of the dispute, reduce court congestion, and minimize acrimony that often occurs with divorcing parties. Id., at 318.

However, the court concluded with the caveat that:

    Any arbitration award must, of course, be subject to review by the judge, who has the authority, and the obligation under G.L., c. 208, s. 34, to make a fair and equitable distribution of property. Id.

While the contested issues in Reynolds included support, the court noted that the Probate and Family Court had found the arbitration award to be fair and reasonable. It is only fair to conclude that family arbitrator's awards must be found to be fair and reasonable as well as free from defects that can give rise to denial of confirmation of an award under the UAA.

The Reynolds Appeals Court noted that nothing in the parties' agreement to arbitrate would "...strip the judge of non-delegable supervisory functions." Id. We presume that the court, here, refers to child custody matters, wherein the parties may not strip the court of its parent patraie powers. This suggests either that the trials court should apply a higher "best interests" review to an award on point; or more extremely, a non-was able right to trial de novo.

Finally, it is pertinent to the current topic, that the Reynolds separation agreement called for arbitration to be binding "...unless modified by the Probate Court." We cannot know if this was an artful use of "modified", referring to a later alteration of the the award for proven changed circumstances in a modification action; or less artfully, to the vacation or revision of an award, at the confirmation stage. We presume the latter.

So, does Katz, Nannis change any of this? Since all arbitration arises from the UAA, we family law arbitration has the same root. Therefore, we infer that parties to a domestic relations agreement to arbitrate cannot impose a standard of review on the trial court that is different from that expressed in the UAA.

But what of the Appeals Court's own apparent declaration of a "fair and reasonable" standard, that itself exceeds M.G.L., ch. 251's review provisions? And the Probate and Family Court's non-delegate parents patriaie responsibilities? There are so few appellate cases that involve family law arbitration that it may be a very long time before we know. We will operate under the assumption that Reynolds remains good law; and that parens patraie trumps all.

A dedicated family law arbitration statute, of course, could resolve this question, and clarify other aspects of the unique of law vis vis arbitration, to everyone's benefit.



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



Delivered by FeedBurner

other articles


recent posts


tags

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