Divorce Mediation Blog

Massachusetts Alimony: Watching the Pot - Part 3 An Arbitrator’s Perspective

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

In our last entry, we celebrated the freedom that a facilitative divorce mediator has when the appellate courts have not yet weighed in on the vagaries and pockets of discretion in the Massachusetts’ one-year old alimony “reform” statute. A statute that can be fairly characterized as open to flexible application can promote rather than limit open discussion, which for divorce mediation, is good.

The arbitrator’s view is quite different.

As family law arbitrators, we are essentially, private judges. While classical commercial arbitration law does not confine the neutral to precise application of prevailing law, family law arbitrators are bound to apply the law because the final result must still be deemed to be “fair and reasonable” to the reviewing judge, under our law. Moreover, when domestic relations clients hire an arbitrator, they are looking for objective and reasoned decision-making. Arbitration is not, after all, supposed to be arbitrary.

In this role, we are no less bound than a trial judge in court to search out what the law is on each point, and to apply it to the facts of the case. The imperfect analogies that are the core methodology of legal inquiry, that may hem in mediation, are the arbitrator’s roadmap. Where the parties do not have appellate rights, or even if they did1 , “getting it right” is the goal. Appellate case law is essential to that cause.

Divorce mediators ask: how may the law be applied to best serve this severing or restructuring family? Family law arbitrators (and masters, facts final), by contrast, ask themselves: what would I do if I were a judge in this case? Clear or confusing, slow and steady or sudden and messy, appellate case law gives arbitrators a window into those factors that would influence a judge in exercising discretion and in balancing competing interests that are represented by this complex statute.

For arbitrators, it doesn’t matter what we wish for, rather it simply matters what is. Let the pot begin to boil.

1As would be permitted if the proposed family law arbitration statute that is advanced by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers – MA Chapter, were law.

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

Delivered by FeedBurner

other articles

recent posts


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