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Divorce Mediation Blog

Financial Bigamy: Failing the Irony Test and An Important SJC Alimony Decision in Connor v. Benedict

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Levine Dispute Resolution Center - Alimony

“Financial bigamy”.

It sounds like a name that we might see on the back of a 40-footer in the local marina, as in “my family is expensive, but man, you should see my boat!” Or, a bad reality TV show (sorry for redundancy).

The term actually finds its origin in the recent Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) case Connor v. Benedict, an important and well-reasoned case on the question, in part, of just how high the evidentiary bar is in pre-dating the start of marriage (for durational limit calculation purposes) to a time before the actual marriage ceremony because:

    “…there is evidence that the parties’ economic marital partnership began during their cohabitation period prior to the marriage.” M.G.L., ch. 208, §48.

Previously, the SJC’s Duff-Koreores v. Kaoreores (2016) lifted a set of fact criteria for the determination of pre-marital “economic partnership” from the Alimony Reform Act’s enumerated factors for finding “common household” of an alimony recipient post-divorce. While this may or may not been what the legislature intended, it certainly works well enough.

The challenge in Connor was that the husband argued that he and the wife could not, as a matter of law, have been engaged in a marital partnership because while –

    the parties lived together -

    they shared health insurance -

    they bought, carried and improved a home together and -

    they publicly held out a filial relationship between the husband and his future step-son -

    they were engaged in “financial bigamy” because the wife was simultaneously collecting alimony from her ex-husband!

After gaining benefit from the wife’s previous alimony, the husband doubled down now by using that same alimony as a shield against his own obligation to her. He plainly missed the irony of his double recovery effort. A really good trial judge didn’t, and clearly the SJC did not miss it either.

These are busy days for the Appellate Irony Chutzpah Scale (AICS). First, last November’s Boblis v. Costa, where a father tried to cut off child support for “military enlistment” emancipation, after his son reduced his father’s tuition bills by accepting a ROTC scholarship (November 7, 2019 blog entry); then, Dilanian v. Dilanian in December, in which the husband asked the judge to take his word about material facts while giving the court documents that established the opposite! (December 8, 2018 blog entry) Luckily, In all three cases, the courts’ irony sensors have been up to the task.

 

Michael Cohen: Bringing Home the Swamp

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Levine Dispute Resolution - Alimony

Litigating colleagues tell me that the casual relationship between “facts” and reality in the Probate and Family Court has become more attenuated, accelerating with the daily lying of the 45th president. Stephen Colbert’s “truthiness” has given way to Trump’s “when in doubt, lie - the more - and the bigger - the better”.

This echoes the political jousting in Washington at large, which reminds me of the arguing of bomb-throwing divorce lawyers in court, but every day, and impacting the world, rather than “merely” the family.

The political and family law circles merged last week during Michael Cohen’s testimony to the House Oversight Committee. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) asked Cohen why, for goodness sake, he used a home equity line of credit to source hush money payments to cover up his client’s extramarital romps. It is something about which I have long wondered.

I didn’t see the hearing live. So, it took Michelle Singletary’s “Color of Money” column in the March 3 Boston Sunday Globe to tell me Cohen’s answer: it was the best way to do it without his wife getting wise to the payment.

Perhaps he feared Washington Post. Maybe the Democrats or the FBI. But, of course, Mrs. Cohen. A lawyer, a fixer; but ultimately, a guilty husband!

How’d did a recovering divorce litigator miss that one?

 



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