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May 2015 Archives

Differences Between International Arbitration and Litigation in U.S. Courts

There are fundamental differences between international arbitration and litigation in the U.S. courts that can impact the cost of resolving your dispute, the time to resolution, and each party's respective level of comfort with the process. Below, I set out a few important distinctions between the two processes.   

Mine, Yours or Ours? Ownership of Property During the Marriage and Upon Death or Divorce

Many married couples give little thought to the issue of which party "legally owns" property acquired during the marriage or the impact that legal ownership may have upon the distribution of assets in the event the marriage ends by death or divorce. Some couples assume, albeit incorrectly, that all property is "marital" in the sense that everything owned by either party will pass to the surviving spouse in the event of death.  Other couples assume, also incorrectly, that owning property in one's individual name (rather than jointly) will protect the asset from the other in the event of divorce.  While neither assumption is correct, the irony of the current state of Massachusetts law is that parties are afforded far greater rights in the property and estate of the other if their marriage ends in divorce than they are if their marriage ends in death.

Homestead Estates in Massachusetts

Whether a litigant is seeking to enforce a judgment or protect assets from creditors, it is important to be aware of the implications of a homestead estate. Also referred to as homestead protection, a homestead estate safeguards part of a person's or family's primary residence from attachment, seizure, execution on judgment, and levy or sale for the payment of most categories of debt. Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 188 provides for an automatic homestead estate worth $125,000 per residence, and a declared homestead amount of $500,000 per residence. In order to receive the latter, a homeowner must file a declaration of homestead in the Registry of Deeds in the county where the property is located. Elderly (defined as 62 or older) or disabled homeowners of any age are entitled to $500,000 of protection individually if they file a declaration of homestead; in circumstances where two elderly spouses each file such a declaration, the couple could be protected in the amount of $1,000,000. 

Domestic Violence Leave in Massachusetts

In August 2014, An Act Relative to Domestic Violence was signed into law and became effective immediately. Section 10 of the Act, codified at G.L. c. 149, §52E, created new protections for an employee who is, or whose covered family member is, a victim of abusive behavior. Abusive behavior includes domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and kidnapping. Under the new law, employers with 50 or more employees must provide employees up to 15 days of unpaid leave in any 12-month period if the employee or covered family member of the employee is a victim of abusive behavior.

Issues With Interpretation In International Arbitration

A central feature of international arbitration is the presence of counsel, parties, and even arbitrators who hail from several different countries. Frequently, more than one nationality is represented at the arbitral hearing, and with that diversity come a host of issues that are not immediately apparent -- chief among them is the variety of different languages being spoken. Since a hearing will only be conducted in one language, it is often the case that many people in the room will need the services of both translators and interpreters in order to be present and fully understand the proceedings.

Foreclosure Is Not Debt Collection Under the FDCPA in the 11th Circuit

The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida has issued an opinion collecting 11th Circuit precedent and reiterating that foreclosure or other enforcement of a security interest, without more, is not "collection of any debt" under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692-1692p ("FDCPA").  While an enforcement of a security interest comingled with an attempt to collect payment on the underlying debt may fall under the FDCPA, mere foreclosure or other security enforcement does not.  Gillis v. Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, 2015 WL 1345309 (M.D. Fla., Mar. 23, 2015).

Adoption Notice to Sperm Donor Not Required

In a case entitled Adoption of a Minor, SJC-11797, slip op. (May 7, 2015), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decided that lawful parents (a married same-sex couple) of a child conceived through in vitro fertilization are not required to give notice to a known/biological father/sperm donor in conjunction with a joint petition for adoption.

SJC Interprets and Upholds 'Obsolete Mortgage' Statute

Where a mortgage states the term of its underlying debt but includes no separate statement of its own term, the two are one-and-the-same, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (the "SJC") has decided in an opinion interpreting and upholding the so-called "obsolete mortgage" statute.

Why Massachusetts Companies Should Avoid Probationary Periods For Newly Hired Employees

Hiring qualified employees that are the right fit for a company is one of the hardest and most important jobs for employers.  A bad hire is not only a waste of time and money, but also causes morale problems and the risk of a wrongful termination claim if the employee is terminated.  Because it is impossible to have a perfect hiring record--particularly when a company is growing quickly and is hiring many new employees--employers often ask whether it makes sense to have a probationary period for new hires.

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