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.

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