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Divorce Mediation Blog

Dividing the Personal Possessions at Divorce: A Primer

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Levine Dispute Resolution - Divorce Mediation

As Christmas approaches, I am drawn to the sad irony that some of the impending happy gifts between spouses may someday turn to bitter lemons, riven by sour grapes in divorce. While none of us can make lemonade out this sad fruit salad, we can help make it all a bit easier for our parties in divorce mediation by giving them ideas of how to take some of the emotion out of this transaction, which is frequently (and intentionally) the last issue tackled, packing one last punch to the gut of the negotiating parties.

Our colleague and friend, David Hoffman of Boston Law Collaborative has synthesized a host of ways to offer people ways out of the worst of this last insult, in his recent piece “Fair and Square…” in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. With David’s permission, I am linking it here as a between-the-holidays guest blog. We have all implemented some, but undoubtedly not all of David’s strategies in the past, and it is really great to have it all under one headline, both as a refresher and as and a fantastic handout for mediating spouses.

Sometimes the parties will select one of these processes. They are all interesting, useful and clever.

More often than not, the tired spouses will say, “Really? Do we really have to do this?” Most of the time, they will then figure out how to swallow enough pride and hurt to adopt their own “good enough” solution, which is usually good enough to end this unique form of pain.

Thanks, David.

 

Can’t Blame a Guy for Trying, But the Courts Do their Job in Dilanian v. Dilanian

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Levine Dispute Resolution - Alimony

The recent decision, Dilanian v. Dilanian, from the Massachusetts Appeals Court describes a litany of unreliable evidence from which a trial judge drew negative inferences about the malfeasance of a divorce-litigant husband, finding that he tried to obscure and shelter both assets and income from his wife and from the court. The Appeals Court agreed with the Probate and Family Court judge, and upheld her decision.

The self-employed husband depressed his apparent income after the divorce filing, by decreasing his profit distributions and increasing his retained, undistributed earnings, without legitimate explanation. You can’t do that!

On a defined contribution plan, the sole- business-owner husband presented documents with the number of retirement plan participants yo-yoing periodically, attempting to reduce his share of the pension pool, for equitable division with his wife. Can’t do that either.

By post-trial motion, the executor-trustee-beneficiary husband tried to take back his inaccurate trial testimony in which he overstated his rights in his father’s estate, which the court had accepted, and later sourced to the husband’s own inexcusable neglect. That doesn’t work.

But the howler in the bunch, of which the Appeals Court made but passing note, the pension plan-administrator husband tried to dilute his share of a defined benefit pension plan by including his late father as a member of the plan, thus trying to divert a chunk of the pension from the court’s equitable division powers.

Only problem was that the plan documents that the husband himself offered in evidence showed that his father was no longer alive when the plan was created.

None of this is particularly surprising in the Probate & Family Court, where Stephen Colbert’s notion of “truthiness” has a long history. But, the audacity to lie in plain sight of a dated document that he himself put into evidence is, simply put, Trumpian.

To borrow a cliché from left wing TV, the “institutions held”: the trial judge sniffed out the ruse, and the appellate court backed her up.

Good for them.

 



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