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

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