REPORT ON LDRC…and All That Alimony.
One of the wonderful things about our practice together is that Chouteau is now permitted to have a public “take”. As an ex-judge, she may express political opinions and not even worry about driving in a car that says “Obama/Biden” on its bumper.
Part of that freedom manifests itself in a labor of love in our practice: the LDRC Blog. In bi-weekly bites, we observe and comment on a wide variety of matters of family law, mediation and arbitration. And sometimes, beyond. Our posts have ranged from reveling in the stunning progress of marriage equality to Obamacare, and from the Alex Rodriguez arbitration to the failed Twinkies mediation.
But, since the start of our practice coincided with the onset of the Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act (eff. 3.1.12), we have blogged almost obsessively about alimony, including this week (Becker v. Phelps). We try to be informative, analytical and direct in our views; and we don’t go back and edit out what may seem, by retrospect, to have been rash, or even just a little bit off. We represent no one, and as a result, we feel just a little bit freer to comment on the courts, trial and appellate, as they pursue the challenging work of implementing and shaping the law.
For much of 2012 and 2013, we wrote about the new alimony statute and anticipation of the inevitable flood of appellate cases to come from this complex, compromise legislation; and we have not been disappointed. 2014 has been a gusher of Appeals Court decisions, reported and 128’s, and SJC precedents. Gaps are being filled, rules clarified and modified, and new inconsistencies created. It is all unfolding before our eyes we and are happy to share our imperfect views about it all in nearly real time, as we ourselves work to make sense of it all in our roles as divorce mediator, arbitrator and master.
Now, we can even watch the sausage being made. Thanks to Suffolk University Law School’s live webcast, we watched the October 6, 2014 oral arguments in SJC cases, Chin v. Merriot, Rodman v. Rodman and Dockter v. Dockter. Three sets of lawyers argued cases with the common thread of pre-ARA judgments, established under premises and policies that were inimical to much of the new the statute; and discerning whether payor retirement rules should apply to them, or should be enforced regarding post-ARA divorce judgments only. By the time that the Dockter appellee addressed the court, there was little left for anyone to say. Stay tuned for those and other decisions later this year and beyond.
Today, we feature our appellate alimony blog entries, including those on Becker, Green, Holmes, Hassey, Nystrom and Zaleski. Feel free to compare them to our speculations about the statute before the start of case law development. We’re not looking back. Way too humbling and there is no good served in regrets....
As for the news, we had an incredibly busy and fun summer. We are happy and proud to note that Best Lawyers recognized us both, again, in arbitration, mediation and family law arbitration; and, as Chouteau was their Lawyer of the Year in arbitration last year, Best Lawyers named Bill their Lawyer of the Year in family law mediation for 2014-15. We are off the Academy of Family Mediators annual meeting this week and looking forward to a week of learning, collegiality and a bit of relaxation.
Take a look at our blog and feel free to comment if you wish. Enjoy fall season and upcoming holidays.
Bill and Chouteau
Lump Sum Alimony Enforceable after Remarriage: Becker v. Phelps
But Does Keller v. O’Brien Live Still?!
In the recent case, Becker v. Phelps, the Massachusetts Appeals upheld Judge Dorothy Gibson of the Middlesex Probate and Family Court in enforcing the second of two $500,000.00 payments, which was due under a divorce agreement. The payor-wife sought to terminate the payment obligation because the Husband had married again, arguing that the Alimony Reform Act barred the payment post-remarriage, despite the fact that the alimony terms both survived, and did not provide for any termination whatever. read more...
Alimony in Massachusetts:
The Appeals Court Speaks First in Green v. Green
The first appellate case on the "new" Massachusetts alimony statute (eff. 3/1/12), has emerged from the Appeals Court. In the case Green v. Green, the court addressed a provision that many think was central to the bill's passage: the presumption that when an alimony payor reaches a defined "retirement age" support should usually end, whether or not actual retirement has occurred.
Since enactment, lawyers and judges have wondered about the hard cases presented by very long-term marriages that may have the most entrenched economic dependencies and the shortest runs to retirement age. read more...
S.J.C. To Alimony Payors: No Credit for Time Served
Finally, the first precedential appellate case on the Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act (eff. 3/1/12) has emerged under the name of Holmes v. Holmes (April 2, 2014). The issue addressed is whether or not the payor of alimony under “temporary orders” of the court (payments by agreement or judge-made decision during the pendency of a divorce case) is entitled to “credit” for those payments against what the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) has now named “maximum presumptive duration” of general term alimony. The answer is “no”. read more...
“Self-Modifying” Divorce Judgments: The Appeals Court Feels Strongly Both Ways. Hassey v. Hassey, Part One
In the recent case of Hassey v. Hassey, the Appeals Court reversed Judge Jeffrey A. Abber of the Essex Probate and Family Court, in part, for ordering alimony as a percentage of the husband’s ongoing income, rather than as a flat sum. read more...
Needs versus 30-35% in Section 53(b): In Its First Foray, Has the Appeals Court Legislated? Hassey v. Hassey, Part Two
They Got A Lot Right: Hassey v. Hassey, Part Three
Alimony in Massachusetts: Rehabilitative Alimony Requires Careful Fact-finding and Comprehensive Decision-writing
Alimony in Massachusetts: Rehabilitative Alimony Requires Careful Fact-finding and Comprehensive Decision-writing.
In a recent “unreported” case , Nystrom v. Nystrom, the court reversed a trial judge’s awarding rehabilitative alimony paid to the wife for a six-month period, a remedy that is limited by statute to cases where the recipient spouse “…is expected to become economically self-sufficient by a predicted time.” read more...
Rehabilitative Alimony: Its All about the Effort, Or is It? Zaleski v. Zaleski, Part One
In its second case decided on the Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act, eff. 3.1.12, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) upheld the judgment of Probate and Family Court Amy Lyn Blake in which she awarded 5 years of rehabilitative alimony to the wife at the conclusion of a 16 year marriage. read more...
Rehabilitative Alimony: Whatever Happened to Needs? Zaleski v. Zaleski, Part Two
Alimony in Massachusetts: Discretion “Unaffected”? Zaleski v. Zaleski, Part Three