Robin M. Lynch Nardone

How Much Alimony Does a Spouse Need?

The alimony statute in Massachusetts provides that the amount of general alimony shall generally not exceed the recipient’s need or 30 to 35 percent of the difference between the parties’ gross incomes. It has long been the rule that the standard of need is measured by the “station” of the parties — by what is required to maintain a standard of living comparable to the one enjoyed during the marriage. The Supreme Judicial Court has provided further guidance in the decision of Young v. Young.

Derek and Joy Young had been married for 24 years when Mr. Young filed a Complaint for Divorce. Mr. Young worked as an executive, and his compensation consisted of base salary, cash bonus, stock options, investor equity units, share plans, and opportunities to purchase common stock at a discount. Mr. Young earned a substantial income, but the amount varied widely year to year. The parties enjoyed an affluent, upper-class standard of living during their marriage, which included an eight-bedroom residence, luxury vehicles, a summer home, and expensive vacations.  After trial, the Court ordered Mr. Young to pay alimony to Mrs.Young of 33% of his gross annual income. The trial judge determined it was … Keep reading

Tricky Halloween Parenting

When I was a child, Halloween was the day my father came home from work early to walk my sister, brothers, and I around the neighborhood in the costumes my mother made. Store-bought costumes were out of the question. The rule was that all homework had to be done before we could go out. While my dad walked up and down neighbors’ driveways with us, my mother stayed home to hand out candy that she stockpiled in a big ceramic pumpkin. My mom loved to see all of the costumes on the children who came to the door. When we got home, she checked our loot for anything suspicious, which also gave her the chance to steal those Nestle Crunch bars she coveted.

Families have different rules and traditions surrounding Halloween. But when parents decide to separate and divorce, things inevitably change. Some parents hold tight to try to keep traditions alive, while others seek to immediately change things. Parents often cannot agree on who will buy the costumes and who will take the children trick-or-treating. Sometimes, parents insist that they both walk around with the children, which is good solution in situations that are truly amicable, but creates … Keep reading

New Child Support Guidelines Effective September 15, 2017

New child support guidelines have been issued by Chief Justice Paula Carey, which go into effect on September 15, 2017. The new guidelines apply to all child support orders issued after that date.  Substantive changes from the current guidelines in effect include the following:

  1. Consideration of parenting time where one party has more than one-third but less than fifty percent of the parenting time was eliminated. The child support task force felt that allowing for an alternative calculation of support based on this type of parenting plan increased litigation and acrimony between parents.
  2. The child support worksheet now contains adjustments for childcare and health insurance expenses in two steps. First, the parent who pays the childcare and/or health insurance deducts the cost from his/her gross income. Second, the parties share the total cost of child care and health insurance in proportion to their available income for support.  However, because the adjustment for sharing the expense is capped at 15% of the child support order, the benefit to the party paying the costs may not be significant.
  3. Child support for children between the ages of 18 and 23 remains at the discretion of the Court. However, the new guidelines provide
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Retroactive Application of Durational Limits is Constitutional

In the highly awaited decision of Van Arsdale v. Van Arsdale, the Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that application of the durational limits contained within the Alimony Reform Act to alimony agreements predating the Act is not unconstitutionally retroactive.

William and Susan married in 1979 and divorced 18 years later in 1997.  At the time of the divorce, alimony in Massachusetts had no durational limits.  And so, William and Susan agreed at the time of the divorce that William would pay alimony to Susan until Susan remarried or until one of them died. They also agreed to review the amount of alimony when the children emancipated and when William retired. In 2015, after the enactment of the Alimony Reform Act, William asked the court to terminate his alimony obligation based upon the durational limits contained in the Act and because he had retired from full time employment. For a marriage of 18 years, the Act provides that alimony shall continue for not longer than 80% of the number of months of the marriage. Susan argued that applying the durational limits retroactively to her agreement with William, which was entered into before the law went into effect, was unconstitutional.… Keep reading

durational limits

durational limitsThe Supreme Judicial Court’s recent decision of George v. George provides guidance in applying the durational limits contained in the Alimony Reform Act.

The Alimony Reform Act, which went into effect in March 2012, provides that all alimony awards that predate the Act are deemed “general term alimony.” Under G.L. c. 208, §49(b), general term alimony awards end on a date certain based upon the length of the marriage, except upon a written finding by the court that deviation beyond the time limits is required “in the interests of justice.”  Many alimony  payors who file complaints to terminate alimony based on the durational limit are met with the defense that it is in the interests of justice for alimony to continue beyond the durational limits. In the November 28, 2016 decision of George v. George, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) sets forth guidelines for how a judge of the Probate and Family Court should apply the “interests of justice” standard.… Keep reading

Nancy Van Tine

Nancy Van Tine
Commander in Chief of Divorce Law Monitor

You may know Nancy as the founder and editor of this terrific blog. Clients and colleagues know her as refreshingly honest, open, positive and tenacious – a challenging combination to find in this often contentious world of divorce law. Divorce is messy. Nancy always focuses on how to determine the best course of action for her client and the situation as a whole. She’s been a terrific role model for us all.

As a team, we’re proud to congratulate Nancy for being selected by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly as one of their “Top Women of Law” for her outstanding contributions to the legal profession. The award celebrates outstanding achievements made by exceptional women lawyers who are pioneers, educators, trailblazers, and role models.… Keep reading

SJC Rules That a Biological Connection Is Not Required for Parentage

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) has ruled that a person may establish herself as a child’s presumptive parent without the need for a biological relationship to the child. The same-sex partner of a woman who gave birth to two children conceived via artificial insemination during their committed, but non-marital, relationship is entitled to the presumption that she is a legal parent of the children.

The Story Behind Partanen v. Gallagher

Karen Partanen and Julie Gallagher were in a committed relationship for 12 years, but never married. In 2005, they decided to start a family with a “shared intention of both being parents of the resulting children.” Partanen tried artificial insemination, but was unable to become pregnant. In 2007, Gallagher conceived a child using assistive reproductive technology and gave birth to a baby girl. In 2012, Gallagher gave birth to a son. Partanen did not adopt the children and never signed an “acknowledgment of parentage” form. This form would have given her legal status as the children’s parent.… Keep reading

Misinterpreting the Law Doesn’t Negate an Alimony Agreement

The Appeals Court decision in DeMarco v. DeMarco reminds us that a deal is a deal, even when it’s entered into based upon advice from a trial judge who misinterprets the law.

In this case, the husband and wife were divorced in May 2010. At that time they signed a separation agreement calling for the husband to pay alimony to his wife of until the death of either party, the wife’s remarriage, or such time as the husband had no gross earned income after reaching age 68. After the Alimony Reform Act was passed into law in 2012, the husband filed a complaint for modification seeking to terminate his alimony obligation based upon his having reached full retirement age.… Keep reading

More Alimony Reform in Massachusetts?

In March 2012, Massachusetts law on alimony was reformed and codified as General Laws Chapter 208, sections 48 – 55. A judicial hearing has been set for Monday, March 7, 2016 at 1 p.m. at the State House seeking further reform of the alimony statute.

The 2012 alimony reform provided for:

  • Durational limits.
  • Termination of alimony upon a payor reaching retirement age.
  • Reduction or termination of an alimony obligation when a recipient cohabitates.

In 2015, the Supreme Judicial Court issued decisions in three cases interpreting the alimony law and held that only the durational limits apply to alimony cases decided (or settled) before March 1, 2012, while the retirement provisions and cohabitation provisions do not.… Keep reading

Is It Illegal to Spank Your Stepchild?

stuffed animal tigerSince many divorcing people are parents, this new case about physical discipline of children might be of interest. Spanking was more common with previous generations, the practice seems to be dropping off. Under Massachusetts law, a parent or guardian is not subject to criminal prosecution for the use of force against a minor child in his/her care provided the use of force…

  1. Is reasonable.
  2. Is related to the purpose of safeguarding or promoting the welfare of the minor (which can include punishment of misconduct).
  3. Does not cause or create the risk of substantial physical harm or severe mental distress.

Basically, you can physically discipline your children so long as you don’t actually hurt them. This is called “parental privilege.” Recently, our Supreme Judicial Court ruled on whether this privilege should extend to stepparents.… Keep reading