Spouse’s Trust Interest Shielded from Division in Divorce

trust shieldHi there,

I continue to be amazed by the distinguished group of divorce and probate lawyers I have the privilege to work with at Burns & Levinson. Today’s decision on Pfannenstiehl v. Pfannenstiehl, a case which will guide family financial planning across the country, is a credit to their hard work and dedication. We’re proud to bring you part two of this story which our contributor Tiffany Bentley brought to our attention back in April. This case was deemed “unwinnable” by many, so it is hugely important to our client as well as a celebrated achievement for our team.

Best,
Nancy


Almost exactly four months ago, I blogged with great pride about the compelling arguments from my colleague, Bob O’Regan, to the Supreme Judicial Court in the matter of Pfannenstiehl v. Pfannenstiehl. Today, I blog with even greater pride about the SJC’s unanimous decision in our client’s favor.

In Pfannenstiehl, initially both the Trial Court and the Appeals Court went to great lengths to ensure that the wife would benefit from an irrevocable trust established by her (now former) husband’s father. The husband had no access to or control over the trust. Assets and income were held for the benefit of the children, grandchildren, and more remote descendants of the husband’s father; 11 beneficiaries in total at the time of trial. Distributions to any one or more of the beneficiaries could be made only in the discretion of the trustees. Still, the Trial Court determined, and the Appeals Court affirmed, that the husband’s interest in the trust was subject to valuation and division as a marital asset. The Trial Court further determined, and the Appeals Court affirmed, that the wife was entitled to receive 60% of the value of the husband’s interest. The husband was ordered to make 24 monthly payments of $48,699.77 to the wife to buy out her share. Keep in mind that the husband had no right to access or demand funds from the trust itself to make these payments.

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Why You Should Care About Federal Computer Privacy

idivorce smartphone ipad iphone

Your morning social media scrolling might get you into trouble.

An often-stated truth is that you shouldn’t access the email of others. Here, “others” means the person you have divorced, are now divorcing, or plan to divorce in the not too distant future. No matter how often this is said, it’s always worth repeating. Don’t snoop in other people’s email accounts!

Like most things, it’s more complicated than that. For instance, there are some minor exceptions, such as “authority to access.” Were you ever granted permission to access the email account? Was authority granted and later rescinded? If you’re even the slightest bit unsure of the answer to these important questions, then the answer is, of course, do not access the account!

However, what happens when this access to information is applied to all the information out there on the web? Is it possible that you could get in trouble for accessing someone’s social media accounts, if they have rescinded permission for you to do so?

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Potential Changes to Interstate Custody Dispute Law in Massachusetts

After a three month maternity leave, and a few months adjusting to being a full-time working mom, I’m excited to be back to contributing my thoughts to this blog! I’m also excited to be writing on a topic that I not only find interesting but also encounter a great deal in my practice – interstate custody disputes.

Pure Home State Jurisdiction

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote a piece about the differences between child custody laws in Massachusetts and Rhode Island with a specific focus on the differences between the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). As detailed in the previous post, Massachusetts was the lone hold-out in adopting the UCCJEA, retaining pure home state jurisdiction when determining where to litigate child custody disputes.

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Change Is Good – Handing Over the Reins

Do these things come with instructions?

Hi there,

In addition to being a busy practicing partner here at Burns & Levinson, I’ve been the chair of the Divorce & Family group and co-chair of the Private Client group since 1989. I’ve had the privilege of assisting more people than I can count through some of the most challenging times in their lives. It’s been rewarding, fun and occasionally crazy. The legal world has changed so much, staying up to date with new laws, technologies and ways to communicate continues to be exciting.

I’m thrilled to announce that my very able partner, Robin Lynch Nardone, has agreed to replace me as chair! Robin and I have worked together for 20 years and I know she’ll do a terrific job. Not to worry though, I’m not retiring! This will just give me more time for focusing on my clients, writing these blog posts and my one true love – spending more time with my animals. My horse, Noah, is a big proponent of this decision.

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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.

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Definition of Cohabitation Set in Recent Alimony Reform Act Interpretation

gavelThe latest in a series of cases interpreting and clarifying the Alimony Reform Act of 2011 has just been decided. Duff-Kareores vs. Kareores was decided by the Supreme Judicial Court on June 15, 2016.

What’s the Story?

The parties were married in 1995, had two children and divorced in 2004. They then lived separately, complying with their divorce agreement, until they began living together as a family again in 2007. They remarried in December 2012. Alas, things didn’t work out as planned, and the wife filed for a second divorce in June of 2013.

The Alimony Decision

The trial judge held that the length of their marriage, for the purpose of determining the alimony term under the Alimony Reform Act, ran from the date of their first marriage till the service of the second divorce. This included the period when they were living separately, under the terms of a divorce agreement, in the calculation of time that alimony in the new divorce would last. Not surprisingly, this was appealed.

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It’s STILL Not Too Late to Act!

Hi there,

I usually take no position on pending legislation but the proposed changes to the alimony law will adversely affect thousands of pre-existing divorce agreements. If you can, please take the time to read this update and consider calling or writing your State Representative and Senator. There is a lot of well organized force on the other side.

Best,
Nancy

 

Boston Massachusetts State HouseAs an update to an earlier blog post, the recent challenge to the Alimony Reform Act continues to move through the legislature. Bill H4110 is currently pending before the full House of Representatives. On April 19, 2016, the House Committee of Steering, Policy and Scheduling reported Bill H4110 to the next sitting of the House for vote. That same day, the House completed a second reading of the Bill, ordering it to a third reading. This is standard procedure and means that the Bill is eligible for a vote by the full House at any time during the remainder of this legislative session. The last day for formal sessions of this legislative session is July 31, 2016, which is also the last day for recorded votes.

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Lemonade Can Be Bitter

If Beyoncé can be cheated on, is there any hope for the rest of us?

Really though, if Beyoncé can be cheated on, is there any hope for the rest of us?

Hi there,

On a gorgeous day like today, you just want to sit outside and sip on a tall glass of lemonade. Recently though, the taste of lemonade has been made a little sharp by the fabulous Beyoncé. Infidelity became a hot topic with her recent release of Lemonade, a scathing, seemingly confessional visual album. As strident a response to infidelity as it was, she has also shone a light on the number of marriages that do survive unfaithfulness.

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New Changes to the Parent Education Program in Massachusetts

parent education program

“Whaddya mean, I have to take a class!?”

As a family law attorney, I’m often met with surprise (even outrage!) when I tell my clients that they’re required to participate in a Parent Education Program in connection with their Massachusetts divorce. People always say that it’s so much easier to get married than it is to get divorced, and that’s not entirely without merit.

While everyone knows that divorce is a costly process, both financially and emotionally, litigants too often become so focused on their own pain that they lose sight of the emotional toll the process can put on their children. Recently there have been some important changes to the Parent Education Program.

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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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