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


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