Divorce Mediation Blog

… Bad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do? The punishment exceeded the crime for divorce property division in D.R. v. D.A

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Levine Dispute Resolution - Divorce Property Division

We will not bore you with our complaints about Appellate Rule 1:28 again, but …

In the case of D.R. v. D.A, the Massachusetts Appeals Court found that the Probate Court judge “gave undue weight to the husband’s ‘bad’ conduct such that the grossly unequal asset allocation ‘falls outside the range of reasonable alternatives’”, vacating the 4 to 9 per cent asset allocation to the offending spouse (the parties gave different computations), a difference that the appellate panel deemed “immaterial”.

The bill of particulars against the husband: voluntary unemployment, controlling and abusive behavior, no contribution to household tasks and unexplained negative impact on the habitability of the martial residence. The trial judge concluded that the husband contributed “little to the marital enterprise…economically or otherwise [and negatively impacted] the wife’s wellbeing.”

Elaborating on prior case law in which the Massachusetts courts had established that “conduct” that “harmed the marriage or the marital estate” could lead to diminished recovery under equitable property distribution principles, the Appeals Court resorted to a graphic treatise treatment:

    Negative conduct, to be more than a featherweight factor, must either be economically detrimental to the welfare of the partnership, such as by undermining the family’s economic stability such as through disposal or waste of martial assets, such as through unlawful or fraudulent acts, or be so egregious as to impair the ability of one spouse to function in the future

A pretty specific set of limiting criteria: the kind that a court that intends to assert clarifying precedent would use. The again, D.R. may not be cited as precedent.

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