781.708.4445

wmlevine@levinedisputeresolution.com

Divorce Mediation Blog

A Prenup Head Shaker from the Appeals Court: Stacy v. Stacy

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

In a Rule 1:28 Memorandum and Order, a panel of the Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled that a pre-marital agreement applied to the death of a spouse, based on contract language that described its scope. Here is that term, fully as reported in the opinion, but broken down by clause:

    … a final and complete settlement of all matters relating to the interest and obligations of each [party] with respect to all future property matters, including but not limited to alimony, support, maintenance, property assignment, and the rights of the parties under G.L., c. 208, §34, as amended, in the event of divorce.

Yet, here is how the Appeals Court must have read it:

    … a final and complete settlement of all matters relating to the interest and obligations of each [party] with respect to all future property matters[.]

    [ ]

    [ ]

The appellate panel tossed out two of the three clauses, which spoke only of divorce, consigned as surplusage, unworthy of consideration, despite the “agreement’s caption referring to G.L., c. 208, §34”, the divorce property division statute.

Now,, let’s cast the provision in the way that is consistent with the maxim that words in a contract are to be accorded meaning within customary everyday usage, with the law of pre-marital agreements that requires that waivers be explicit and the highly probable intent of the parties:

    … a final and complete settlement of all matters relating to the interest and obligations of each [party] with respect to all future property matters, in the event of divorce [,] including but not limited to alimony, support, maintenance, property assignment, and the rights of the parties under G.L., c. 208, §34, as amended[.]

Do you think that the parties’ might have used the word “death” somewhere, if they intended to cover that contingency? Or “estate”? Bequest”? Maybe, “inheritance”? Even “survivor”?

The result is that a widow, with no hint of pending divorce, or even marital strain, must now answer to her sister-in-law (the estate’s personal representative) for “several furnishings and personal belongings” that she removed from her marital home, in part, for alleged violation of a premarital agreement that was to all appearances, extinguished by her husband’s death.

We have no quarrel with the Appeals Court remand on the grounds that a violation of G. L. c. 190B, § 3-709 may have occurred, or that the alleged facts were also sufficient to state claims of a conversion, an unjust enrichment, and a constructive trust. But the Appeals Court is makes unnecessary mischief by inferring intent that doesn’t appear in, or even between the lines of, the contract.



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



Delivered by FeedBurner

other articles


recent posts


tags

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