The 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
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
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.… Keep reading
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.
As 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.… Keep reading
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!
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:
Creating durational limits for payments.
Terminating alimony when a payor reaches retirement age.
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).… Keep reading
As promised, here is an in-depth explanation of the new decisions from the Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) on the Alimony Reform Act, by my talented and knowledgeable partner, Robin Lynch Nardone.
On January 30, 2015, the SJC issued three decisions with significant impact on the right to seek modification of an alimony order issued prior to the enactment of Massachusetts’ Alimony Reform Act. The uncodified provisions of the alimony reform act are what the SJC has relied on in determining that only the durational limits on payment of alimony apply to alimony cases decided before March 1, 2012, while the retirement provisions and cohabitation provisions do not. Uncodified provisions of an act express the legislature’s view on some aspect of the act’s operation and are not the source of the substantive provisions of the law. Below are the details on the three cases.… Keep reading
I have a few updates on what is happening in three cases that are testing the limits of the Alimony Reform Act.
Much of the press and the writings about the act have been positive. This is partly driven by fathers rights organizations and organizations like Mass Alimony Reform. They are supported by some of the most prominent practitioners in family law in Massachusetts who have written briefs supporting a very broad interpretation of the law.
I am not an advocate of the draconian choices propounded by the proponents of the act. It seems eminently fair that alimony should be tied to the length of the marriage. It is murkier, however when the case involves a long term marriage with a post-retirement divorce and alimony judgement and the payer’s request to end alimony as a result of the Alimony Reform Act. There are innumerable cases in the Probate and Family Court awaiting determination of just this issue. Three cases which were decided by the Probate Courts have been taken by the Supreme Judicial Court (hereinafter the SJC) for decision. The cases are Chester Chin vs. Edith E … Keep reading
On August 1, 2014, the Supreme Judicial Court rendered its second decision (no doubt of many) on the cases coming in on the new Alimony Reform Act. The case is an appeal from a decision of Justice Amy Blake, who has just been elevated to the Appeals Court. The opinion in Zaleski v. Zaleski was written by Judge Fernande Duffly, who has been a domestic relations practitioner, a Probate Court Judge and now a Supreme Judicial Court Justice. She is the only one on the SJC to have a background in family law; as a result her opinions are extremely helpful.
This case makes four major points:
The Probate and Family Court judges still have great, even expanded discretion.
Even if general term alimony is possible, in certain circumstances the judge can limit it to rehabilitative alimony.
If the Court orders a party to maintain life insurance, the insurance required must have a relationship to the parties’ financial obligation
All income, including bonuses, must be included in the alimony calculation.
Rehabilitative alimony can only last for 5 years. General term alimony in the circumstances of the Zaleski case would have lasted 13 years. This decision makes … Keep reading
With the coming of spring comes a fresh interpretation of some relatively new legislation that has been closely watched by attorneys around Massachusetts. Any new law will require interpretation by the courts, going up through the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), before lawyers are sure of how the ambiguities in any new law will be treated. The Alimony Reform Act is no exception. The law went into effect March of 2012, and the first appeal of a case has wound its way through the system. Through Holmes v. Holmes, we now have some clarity on what has been a common yet unclear issue. It is also noteworthy that the SJC took the case from the Appeals Court without waiting for them to decide. This is undoubtedly a reflection by the SJC on the significance of the issue.
Usually folks who will be receiving alimony after their divorce judgement also have been the recipients of temporary alimony. In a lot of cases divorces can take well over a year from first time in court for temporary orders until final agreement or judgement. The first occasion sets temporary alimony, and the second sets alimony under the categories laid … Keep reading