The divorce bar does not often look to the federal trial court for guidance in family law matters. In fact, outside of discovery and the Rules of Civil Procedure, we rarely look to federal courts at all when constitutional rights are not at issue.
But U.S. District Court Judge William G. Young’s ruling in Irish v. Irish is a noteworthy exception.
Young’s findings and conclusions establish contractual liability from a former husband’s false statement on his Supplemental Probate Court Rule 401 Financial Statement, filed in a Middlesex Probate & Family Court divorce case and referred to in a separation agreement that the state court incorporated into its divorce judgment. Critically, the agreement survived incorporation in the judgment and did not merge therein.
The federal case concerns a payout to defendant Craig S. Irish that plaintiff Dawn E. Irish, and now Judge Young, view as a form of phantom equity, in which the former wife has continuing contractual rights. Young makes quick and eloquent work of Mr. Irish’s contention that a substantial sum received by him afer divorce was merely a bonus and, thus, outside the scope of Ms. Irish’s property claims.