In a recent Rule 23 decision, a panel of the Massachusetts Appeals Court reversed the lower court and held that G. L. c. 208, section 53 (i.e., section 53 of the Alimony Reform Act) does not restrict parties' ability to negotiate and agree upon how alimony is calculated when entering into a separation agreement. (See Pedro v. Pedro).
People often think about the number zero as only nothing, when in fact, the invention of the humble zero constantly forces us to realize that the absence of something is a thing in and of itself. In a recent decision, the Massachusetts Appeals Court changed the durational limits of an alimony award based on an implicit "zero-dollar alimony award" in the separation agreement, once again proving that when it comes to zero, nothing absolutely matters.
Divorce litigants in Massachusetts may not clearly understand the distinction between those provisions in a Separation Agreement regarding child support and those provisions regarding the payment of the child(ren)'s expenses. Both types of provisions are merged into the Judgment of Divorce, meaning that the court can modify them in appropriate cases. Generally speaking, the standard for modifying a child support order is that there must be "an inconsistency between the amount of the existing order and the amount that would result from the application of the Massachusetts child support guidelines." M. G. L. c. 208, § 28. In contrast, the standard for modifying any provisions about payment of a child's expenses is that there must have been a "material change in circumstances" since the entry of the judgment that is being modified.
In Foisie v. Worcester Polytechnic, Institute (September 30, 2019), the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts allowed a Motion to Dismiss where a former wife brought claims of fraudulent transfer and/or constructive fraudulent transfer against Worcester Polytechnic Institute ("WPI") located in Massachusetts under Connecticut law. The former wife alleged that the assets donated to WPI by her former husband were hidden from her during their divorce, and that the donation was intended to defraud her.
The vast majority of divorce cases are resolved not by trial, but by the parties agreeing upon and submitting a Separation Agreement to the Probate and Family Court for approval. One of the more confusing elements of a Separation Agreement for many clients is the fact that certain provisions of the agreement are deemed to "merge" with the Judgment of Divorce and other provisions are deemed to "survive." Although these terms may be unfamiliar to non-attorneys, the distinction between the two is not particularly complex.
One of the new provisions of the new tax reform bill - background here - is that the long-standing tax deduction for alimony will no longer be available for separation agreements and divorces obtained after December 31, 2018. Specifically, the reform applies to "any divorce or separation instrument . . . executed after December 31, 2018" (emphasis added).
To make it easier for parties who enter written agreements for modification to have such agreements incorporated into enforceable court judgments or orders, Rule 412 has been expanded beyond judgments and orders regarding solely child support, and now include uncontested modifications of other child-related judgments and orders, including those related to custody and medical insurance coverage.