781.708.4445

wmlevine@levinedisputeresolution.com

Divorce Mediation Blog

Just What is a “New Legal Consequence”?

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Not a Shifting Alimony Presumption, under Van Ardsdale v. Van Ardsdale

Levine Dispute Resolution - Alimony

The crux of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s (SJC) recent Van Ardsdale v. Van Ardsdale, is that the retroactive effect of durational limits under the Alimony Reform Act (eff. 3.1.12) (ARA) is constitutional because the imposition of these constraints is “merely” presumptive and, therefore, do not “attach new legal consequences to events completed before its enactment”.

We do not question precedent. While its comparison of a sex offender’s right to contest registration requirement for adjudications that occurred before the registry legislation, in Doe, Sex Offender Registry Bd. 3839 v. Sex Offender Registry Bd., to alimony recipients’ right to seek deviation from the “presumed” durational limits is cringe-worthy, we get the analysis. Because the sex offender and the alimony payee both have some chance of eluding the impact of new legislation, the former by an appeal to the Board, and the latter by an “interests of justice” court deviation from alimony termination, the individual’s jeopardy is not foregone; therefore, it does not rise to the level of a “new legal consequence”.

Presumptions, the SJC reasons, are “simply rules of evidence”.

But, sometimes good legal analysis defies reality, or at least practicality.

Before ARA, the burden of proving changed circumstances to justify the termination of alimony sat squarely on the shoulders of the payor. Retirement? Just one circumstance to consider. Income loss? Well, maybe, but just how did that happen, anyway. Cohabitation of the recipient? Forget about it.

Now, the burden falls just as squarely the recipient, as the secondary holding Van Ardsdale, and the same day’s Popp v. Popp, demonstrate. It is a small sample to be sure, but the appellate scoreboard on reported cases for alimony payees seeking to extend alimony beyond “presumed” time limits is 0-2. In many cases, the answer will be the same for recipients as it used to be for obligors whose alimony check supported the household of not only the ex- spouse, but a new “friend” as well.

We are not at all criticizing that this burden shift has occurred. That is a policy question, and one properly reserved to the legislature. The old alimony system was, in many respects, out of control.

But, calling a major burden shift as a mere rule of evidence trivializes a very real and substantive change in our statutory law. And, it denies the everyday experience of litigants and their counsel, many of whom will not sue for alimony extensions, because presumptions are meant to be hard to overcome. And, expensive. And, risky.



Get e-mail notifications of new blog posts! Enter email address below.:



Delivered by FeedBurner

other articles


recent posts


tags

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