Divorce Mediation Blog

Alimony in Massachusetts: Rehabilitative Alimony Requires Careful Fact-finding and Comprehensive Decision-writing

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

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.” The trial court made 6 conclusory findings in attempted compliance with the rehabilitative alimony statute, including (not limited to) the wife’s education, continuing ability to work, her employment history in pharmaceuticals and in teaching, her decision to turn down a a pharmaceutical job offer, her average work income for 2007 – 2011 (judgment entered in May 2012) and critically that: “…she has not used her best efforts in becoming reemployed in either of these fields”. The Appeals Court found fault with the last conclusion because the record did not disclose any evidence contradictory to the wife’s own testimony about her job search, and the judge did not make findings “discrediting” the wife’s testimony. Therefore, the appellate court decided that the trial judge’s conclusion was not supported by her “subsidiary” findings.

We cannot know from the Appeals Court text whether or not the evidence itself supported the trial judge’s conclusions, but the case highlights two important points:

  1. As a former Probate and Family Court judge (Chouteau Levine) and a present and very active arbitrator and master (William Levine), we are reminded how critical it is to write clearly and comprehensively the role that credibility plays in fact-finding, that is, if decisions arise materially from believing or disbelieving a party, it is necessary to expressly say so and to detail the evidence that supports the belief or disbelief; and
  2. While our recent alimony reform law (eff. 3.1.12) indicates legislative determination to limit terms of alimony, appellate courts will scrutinize those limits carefully.

1A case decided by a 3 judge panel of the state’s intermediate Appeals Court, and not reviewed by the full bench, and therefore, not formal “precedent”, but influential in practice to the extent of its persuasiveness.

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

Delivered by FeedBurner

other articles

recent posts


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