Divorce Mediation Blog

“Self-Modifying” Divorce Judgments: The Appeals Court Feels Strongly Both Ways. Hassey v. Hassey, Part One

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

In the recent case of Hassey v. Hassey, the Appeals Court reversed Judge Jeffrey A. Abber of the Essex Probate and Family Court, in part, for ordering alimony as a percentage of the husband’s ongoing income, rather than as a flat sum. They justices ruled that the judge had pre-decreed a modification of his own judgment based on facts and circumstances that had not yet changed. Thus, they reasoned, he deprived the husband of the right to resist such a change based on the host of other material and substantial changes that might occur in the interim, in the context of a complaint for modification.

This part of the decision was not surprising. The principle enunciated arises from long-standing precedent, with only 2 previous reported and relatively narrow appellate exceptions. Yet, curiously, the Appeals Court did not vacate that part of the judgment that determined that alimony shall terminate upon the wife’s cohabitation. Before the Alimony Reform Act of 2011 (eff. 3.1.12), this provision would have been absolutely contrary to law. Now, cohabitation is a statutorily recognized basis for change.

But the statute does not dictate the kind or extent of change. The law provides that if cohabitation occurs within the definition provided in the act, then the court shall do something. However, it requires the modifying judge to calibrate the remedy to the circumstances that exist at the time of the cohabitation. A judge may reduce, suspend or terminate alimony. So, when the Hassey judgment decreed that the wife’s cohabitation would automatically terminate alimony, the wife was denied the right, assured by the Alimony Reform Act, to resist termination based on the host of other material and substantial changes that might occur in the interim, in the context of a complaint for modification.

Did the wife fail to perfect this as an issue on appeal, relieving the court of an obligation to address it? We cannot know from the text of the decision. Without doubt, though, the decision is inconsistent, and the cause of consistency and predictability, its victim.

Next: Needs versus 30-35% in Section 53(b): In Its First Foray, Has the Appeals Court Legislated? Hassey v. Hassey, Part Two

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

Delivered by FeedBurner

other articles

recent posts


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