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In an unpublished opinion under Rule 1:28, the Massachusetts Appeals Court recently consigned a septuagenarian couple to resumed legal combat in the Probate and Family Court, 14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


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