781.708.4445

wmlevine@levinedisputeresolution.com

Divorce Mediation Blog

Pre-marital Cohabitation in Defining Marital Length Clarified

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

But, In Rejecting Normalized Income for Alimony & Accepting Early Valuation Date:
Why won’t the Appeals Court tell us what they really think?
BORTOLOTTI V. BORTOLLOTTI - Part. 1


Levine Dispute Resolution - Alimony

We have previously lamented the shortcomings of Massachusetts Appeals Court’s Rule 1:28 opinion practice, and the recent Bortollotti v. Bortollotti has us at it again, but that will have to wait until Part 2.


Today, instead, we focus on the court’s helpful clarification of the legislature’s provision that tasks trial judges with determining if and when a marriage may be construed to begin before its legal registration, for purposes of calculating the length of marriage, and the resulting presumed durational limit calculated under M.G.L., ch, 208, § 48. When we say it is helpful, it is not to say that we agree or disagree with the concept, but rather, that, like a puzzle part, it fills a gap that makes the statute more understandable and, therefore, more predictable in outcome.

The concept of a de facto relationship giving rise to an obligation normally associated with a legal one preceded the Alimony Reform Act (“ARA”), beginning with California cases involving child support by estoppel (obligations arising from unrelated-party voluntary undertakings and resulting reliance), to pre-marital contribution in equitable division cases (see, Liebson v. Liebson and Moriarty v. Stone) and, more recently and directly on point, judges’ grappling with the inequities of same sex couples who were divorcing after long relationships and fact-based economic unions, but to whom marriage was foreclosed until implementation of 2005’s Goodridge decision.

In ARA, the legislature expanded the notion to all marriages in the alimony context.

Section 48 allows the trial court to back-date the start of marriage for a “significant marital cohabitation that includes ‘economic marital partnership’”, per Bortollotti. In this case, the trial judge found that the parties had, in fact, cohabited before legal marriage, but that the wife had not contributed income to the partnership, therefore, an economic marital partnership did not exist.

With logic more parallel to actual marriage, and historic alimony law, the Appeals Court reversed, stating that the wife’s very economic dependence signified that the marital partnership had begun. They reconciled three ARA features: the enumerated criteria for awarding alimony; the “common household” needed to trigger a payor’s post-divorce right to demand redress; and the pre-marital issue, here.

Since economic dependence is one of the enumerated alimony factors, the appellate court reasoned, it will suffice to extend the length of marriage retrospectively, for alimony’s presumed durational limit purposes.

The holding is fairly simple. It will apply to many cases, sometimes with minor, and other time substantial effect. The most extreme, obviously, will be when this metric leads to a finding that a 19 ½-year marriage was preceded by a more than 6-month cohabitation with economic dependency, stripping the payor of any presumed durational limit whatsoever, especially where the payor is more than 16 years shy of full social security retirement age. We can expect that this aspect of those cases to be most hotly contested.

The next time, Rule 1:28 and why the rest of Bortollotti is frustratingly sparse.



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



Delivered by FeedBurner

other articles


recent posts


tags

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