Reminder: On October 1, 2018, LDRC moves its Boston Area office to:

858 Washington Street, Suite 200, Dedham, MA 02026


Part 1:

“If you live in this world
You're feelin' the change of the guard.”
(Becker & Fagan 1972)

Well, Chouteau was always a woman of her word, and after spending the month of August taking care of newly minted grandbaby boys, she really is retiring. She will spend September wrapping up cases and breaking down our old office…

Part 2:
Not Shy and Definitely Not Retiring

This quarter’s newsletter is a bit early, both to carry the new address reminder above, and because our not-so-sophisticated communications strategy (where did you go, Anthony Scaramucci?) has left people asking:

  1. Are you retiring, too?
  2. Have you moved to the Northampton?

The answers are “nope” and “not so much”.

First, the nope: I am not retiring. LDRC is morphing from a 2-person practice to a solo operation, but doing the same work, in the same markets, and with the same intensity; just with a new eastern Massachusetts office, courtesy of our friend and mediator colleague, Barbara Nason.

Same convenience, same comforts, maybe better snacks.

Second, the not so much: we continue to enjoy our bi-coastal life (Judge Linda Fidnick’s wry description), from the Atlantic to the Connecticut, and I continue to work cases in both places. One of the great luxuries that a private dispute resolution practice affords is the flexibility to be where we want to be when we want to be there.

Think of it this way: when we are not here, we are there.

Part 3:

“What me, worry?
(Alfred E. Neuman 1956)

One deadline down, two more to go. As confusion and uncertainty continue to reign about the 2019 federal tax treatment of alimony deals struck in 2018, we feature two articles that recently appeared both in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly (mine in the original form, before LW editing) and the LDRC Blog.

The first is old friend Jon Field’s reassuring view that may be summarized as: if it qualified under federal law before, it will still qualify in 2019, so long as the agreement is struck before the end of New Year’s Eve.

The second is my reply, which reflects that slightly more fevered view: if the Treasury Department chooses to implement the new tax law in a way that mitigates GOP’s $1.5 trillion fiscal folly that they jestingly call “tax reform” (the joke is on us), it may just require executed alimony instruments and incorporated court orders and maybe even final divorces, to qualify for deductible alimony treatment.

The paranoid view is that it may already be too late for joint divorce petitioners, and by month’s end, it may be too late for the rest. Meanwhile, we are all spending disproportionate time dealing with parties’ anxieties (they have enough already) about whether they need to rush their negotiations, for tax purposes.

I hope you’ll focus less on the mild debate, and more on how we all may do the best we can to cover as many bases as we can with divorcing parties as we enter the radioactive zone of Q4 2018, just in case.

I also present the latest blog entry Mueller v. Mueller, partly because it is interesting, but mostly because I like the title!

Summer’s over, so I hope you have a great autumn.


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


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”. Read more...

Alimony and the TCJA: A Common Misconception


By Jonathan E. Fields

Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, alimony will no longer tax deductible to the payor and no longer tax includable to the payee, effective Jan. 1, 2019.

The law was a shock to many, particularly divorce lawyers, most whom had gotten used to the way things had been for the last 7 years. There is a saving grace in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, or TCJA, however: Qualifying agreements and modifications can be grandfathered into the old taxability treatment subject to certain requirements. Read more...

Alimony and the TCJA: Less a Misconception than a Worry, and What to Do About It – A Mediator’s View


By William M. Levine

I agree with Jonathan E. Field’s excellent essay “Alimony and the TCJA: A Common Misconception” (July 23, 2018), to the extent that he asserts that an alimony agreement that is executed during calendar 2018 should entitle the parties to the continued economic leverage of the alimony deduction, on which many divorcing families have relied since 1942. I wish that I shared Jon’s confidence that what should be will be, but I am less than sure. Read more...

© 2019 Levine Dispute Resolution Center LLC. Dedham and Northampton, MA
781.708.4445 | 413.341.1017 | Email: wmlevine@levinedisputeresolution.com

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