Use Your Pretrial Conference to Help Avoid Going to Trial

Separating couples have disagreements on settling all types of issues... geese top my weird chart though.

Separating couples have disagreements on settling all types of issues… geese top the weird chart though.

Hi there,

There are many stops on the road before a divorce trial takes place. If you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse still have disputes after your four way meeting, your next shot at settling the case is through a pretrial conference. At the pretrial conference, the judge who would preside over the actual trial is the judge who will look through all your documentation and tell everyone what he or she thinks about the remaining disagreements. If you’re able to work through the disputes, this can be a great opportunity to settle without going to litigation. Your attorney should bring a draft agreement, as most people get divorced on the day of the pretrial conference.

Tell Your Story with a Pretrial Memo

In preparation for your pretrial conference, your attorneys have the opportunity to explain your side of the story through a well-written memo (a “pre-trial memorandum”). This memo should clearly explain to the judge what you want and why you deserve it. It’s your chance to tell your side of the story in the best way possible.

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It’s Not Too Late to Act!

Hi there,

Earlier in 2016 our Private Client group happily welcomed Ann “Hether” Hetherwick Cahill as an associate. Hether’s practice focuses on probate and family court litigation, including will contests, removal claims, trust disputes, equity actions, guardianship and conservatorship proceedings, and family law. We’re pleased to feature some of her thoughts on the recent developments with the Alimony Reform Act!

Best
Nancy

 

There has been a new development in the recent challenge to the Alimony Reform Act. As a backdrop, the landmark Alimony Reform Act (M.G.L. c. 208, sections 48-55), which went into effect on March 1, 2012, changed alimony awards by:

  1. Creating durational limits for payments.
  2. Terminating alimony when a payor reaches retirement age.
  3. Suspending, reducing or terminating an alimony obligation when a payee cohabitates. The Act allows for deviation from these timeframes based upon the circumstances of the case.

On January 20, 2015, the Supreme Judicial Court issued decisions in three cases (Chin v. Merriot, Rodman v. Rodman, and Doktor v. Doktor) interpreting the Act’s language to hold that the retirement and cohabitation provisions apply only prospectively to judgments entered after March 1, 2012 (the date on which the Act became effective).

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Massachusetts High Court to Determine Whether a Spouse’s Trust Interest Can Be Reached in Divorce

On April 5, 2016, the collective eyes of Massachusetts divorce attorneys and estate planners were fixed on the Supreme Judicial Court, where the highly-anticipated oral arguments on “further appellate review” of Pfannenstiehl v. Pfannenstiehl took place.

The 2015 Appeals Court decision received national attention for its potential detrimental impact on the estate planning goals of families who desire to shield trust assets from divorce claims. In Pfannenstiehl, both the Trial Court and the Appeals Court went to great lengths to ensure that the wife would benefit, at least indirectly, from an irrevocable trust established by her soon-to-be-ex-husband’s father even though the husband had no control over the trust and could receive distributions only at the discretion of the trustees. The husband had no present, guaranteed, enforceable interest to receive or use assets or income from the trust. The trustees’ discretion was limited to making distributions under an “ascertainable standard” for a beneficiary’s health, education, maintenance and support. The Trial Court and Appeals Court decisions failed to account for the fact that the trustees did not make distributions to the husband for most of the marriage, and that the husband received distributions only during the final two years of the marriage.

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