Divorce Mediation Blog

No Country for Old Men, Part 5: The Appeals Court Tells 79-Year Old Alimony Payor “Si, Mas” Muellner v. Muellner

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Levine Dispute Resolution - Alimony

In an unpublished opinion under Rule 1:28, the Massachusetts Appeals Court recently consigned a septuagenarian couple to resumed legal combat in the Probate and Family Court, 14 years after their divorce. The appellate court vacated two modification judgments of the Probate and Family Court, reducing the now 79-year-old husband’s alimony to his former wife, for the judge’s failure to “demonstrate ‘appropriate consideration’” of:

  • the husband’s ability to pay;
  • the wife’s financial need; and
  • the “intent” of the parties as evidenced by their divorce agreement.

Putting aside completely the M.G.L., ch. 208, §49 (f) presumption that alimony terminates upon the payor’s attainment of full social security retirement age - a distant memory for this payor - since this divorce predated the Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act (eff. 3.1.12) (See, LDRC previous blog entries, “No Country for Old Men”, Parts 1 through 4) this decision is problematic for at least two reasons:

  • it appears that the trial judge is faulted for not considering information that the parties didn’t offer him at trial; and
  • the Appeals Court’s inference of the parties’ intent is pure speculation – the kind for which it might well criticize a trial judge.

Ah, Rule 1:28 decisions. The facts are not “fully addressed”, but one fact that the Appeals Court did disclose is that both modification “trials” were decisions entrusted to the Probate and Family Court judge by agreement of the parties, to be rendered on “stipulation[s] of facts in lieu of testimony”. No one gave direct testimony, and no one was cross-examined, no experts opined.

In other words, no trial at all, with all of its glorious inefficiencies and protections.

Then again, this is what the parties signed up for. Competent adults are, or should be, allowed to make decisions, including ones that disadvantage them. These parties were not juveniles – far from it – and they chose the rules by which they would play. No parens patriae, here. Essentially, they put the judge in the position of an arbitrator, limiting the evidence and circumscribing procedure; and accepting that the decision in generally binding.

The specters of 80-year-olds paying alimony, golden years spent in litigation and my self-indulgent blog title totally aside: shouldn’t the Appeals Court have left well enough alone?

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

Delivered by FeedBurner

other articles

recent posts


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