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.
The Appeals Court addressed this issue in the recent case, Clement v. Owens-Clement. In that case, the Husband and the Wife were married for a total of six years before they divorced in 2013. The parties' separation agreement, which was incorporated into their divorce judgment, included a merged alimony provision in which the parties waived past and present alimony, but presumptively left open the option to seek alimony in the future.
This issue was examined by the Appeals Court in the recent case, Hoy v. Hoy. In that case, the wife was the primary wage earner during the parties' long-term marriage and the trial judge in the divorce found that the husband was in need of alimony. However, because the wife's income was substantially reduced by the time of the trial, the judge did not order her to pay alimony. Instead, the judge noted that the issue of alimony could be brought back before the Court and modified at a later date and ordered the wife to provide the husband with notice if her income increased by more than 5%. Additionally. the judge awarded the husband slightly more than half of the marital assets, including half of the wife's retirement accounts accrued over length of the marriage and more than half of the proceeds of the sale of the marital home.
In Casey v. Sweeney, a recent decision of the Appeals Court of Massachusetts, the court declined to provide clarification on the meaning of a statutory provision that has puzzled commentators and practitioners since it came into effect on March 1st 2012. The provision at issue is M.G.L. c 208 s 53(c)(2), which reads:
In a recent case, Macri v. Macri, the Massachusetts Appeals Court recently cemented a trial court decision to, among other things, attribute income to Husband, who was unemployed at the time of trial. Attribution of income is often a contested topic in the Probate and Family Courts of Massachusetts, and this case provides further guidance on the issue.
In a recent summary decision, Casey v. Sweeney, a panel of the Massachusetts Appeals Court reaffirmed that a payor's alimony obligation determined prior to the enactment of the Alimony Reform Act in March 2012 cannot be modified without a showing of a material change in circumstances (i.e., a material change affecting either the recipient's need or the payor's ability to pay.
In a recent summary decision, a panel of the Massachusetts Appeals Court considered whether or not certain payments that a former husband received in addition to his base salary constituted "bonus income," of which husband would then be obligated to pay his former wife a percentage as alimony. (See Dunbar v. Dunbar, 2019 WL 993330) (Pursuant to Rule 1:28).
The United States Census Bureau shows the median age of individuals at the time of their first marriage is becoming increasingly older for both men and women. Meanwhile, the number of unmarried individuals cohabiting with their significant others is growing. These trends may be due in some part to couples delaying the responsibilities of marriage as they focus on their careers, but here is something all couples should know: for purposes of determining the length of a marriage for an alimony award, the period of premarital cohabitation could be included regardless of whether both parties were contributing financially.
The new tax reform bill (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/1), which was signed into law on December 22, 2017, eliminates (http://money.cnn.com/2017/12/15/pf/taxes/alimony-tax-bill/index.html) the tax deduction for alimony payments for separation agreements and divorces obtained after December 31, 2018.
From a legal perspective, getting hitched in Massachusetts is fairly quick and simple, requiring little more than a valid marriage license and a proper officiant. It is not even necessary to be wed by a clergy member or Justice of the Peace, as anyone over the age of 18 in reasonably good character can receive a one-day designation to solemnize the marriage. Divorce, on the other hand, is rarely if ever as easy or efficient, and contested proceedings take months and even years to finalize.
Since the enactment of the Alimony Reform Act of 2011 (the "Act"), alimony awards once considered ambiguous or lifetime entitlements are now subject to specific, durational time limits based upon the length of the parties' marriage. But, under what circumstances might such durational limits be extended? In a recent decision, a Probate and Family Court (Hampshire Division) judge has ruled that a former husband's obligation to pay alimony to his disabled former wife shall continue beyond durational limits. Barcalow v. Barcalow (Lawyers Weekly No. 15-003-12.) In the Barcalow case, the parties were married for approximately 6 years, 2 months (or 74 months). By the terms of the Act, if the duration of the marriage is 10 years or less, but more than 5 years, general term alimony shall be no greater than 60 percent of the number of months of the marriage. G.L. c. 208, § 49(b). Following passage of the Act and more than 7-years post divorce, Mr. Barcalow filed a Complaint for Modification, seeking to terminate his alimony obligation to his former wife based, in part, upon the fact that his obligation exceeded the Act's durational limit.
On January 20, 2015, the Supreme Judicial Court issued decisions in three cases involving an important provision of the Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act ("the Act"). In each of these cases, which are described more fully below, the alimony payor wanted to terminate their alimony obligation based upon the Act's language that alimony "shall terminate upon the payor attaining the full retirement age." See G.L. c. 208, § 49(f).
The Massachusetts Appeals Court recently upheld the "non-modifiability" of surviving alimony agreements under the Alimony Reform Act of 2011 ("act"). The case is called Lalchandani v. Roddy.
The Alimony Reform Act of 2011 provides for alimony to presumptively terminate when a payor reaches full retirement age unless a Court finds that a material change in circumstances has occurred and there is clear and convincing evidence to support an extension of the payments. While appellate courts have yet to rule as to what facts and circumstances may justify such an extension, at least one trial court has found that the ability of a wealthy former spouse to continue to pay support after reaching full retirement age is not, in and of itself, sufficient to justify an extended alimony order.
In a recent Appeals Court case of Hassey v. Hassey, a provision in a divorce judgment requiring a husband to pay thirty percent of his anticipated future gross income to his former wife was struck down as inconsistent with the terms of the Alimony Reform Act of 2011.
The enactment of the Alimony Reform Act of 2011, which went into effect March 1, 2012, was hailed as the most dramatic reform in family law in decades. The sweeping new law effectively ended the reign of lifetime alimony in Massachusetts, tying the length of time that a former spouse could be ordered to pay "general term" alimony (traditional alimony paid to an economically dependent spouse) to the length of the marriage in marriages of 20 years or less, and to hard limits of three years for "transitional alimony" (paid to help a spouse adjust to the change in lifestyle or location after divorce) and five years for "rehabilitative alimony" (intended to assist a recipient spouse in the short term who is expected to become self-supporting by a specific time). The Act further provides for the termination of alimony upon the payor reaching full retirement age or the recipient's remarriage.
With the enactment of the Alimony Reform Act of 2011, almost every former spouse with an alimony order has questioned whether he or she may be subject to the relief from, or the loss of, support payments under the new law. While the provisions of the Act clearly apply to parties who were divorced in Massachusetts and continue to reside here, former spouses who were divorced in another state, but have since moved to Massachusetts, are also wondering about the impact of Massachusetts alimony reform.
Flowers are blooming, temperatures are rising --- Spring is in the air. Wedding season is upon us - save the date postcards were mailed in January and June wedding dates are just around the corner. Just when you think all the wedding planning is almost complete, one of the parties raises the issue of prenuptial agreements.
The Bachelor Party. In the UK, it's known as "Stag Night"; in France, "enterrement de vie de garcon" - literally, "burial/funeral of the life as a bachelor." For grooms-to-be across the globe, it is a time honored tradition, and in the US, Las Vegas is commonly known as the ideal destination for this debaucherous weekend of gambling, drinking and good-natured hazing. Perhaps thanks to the oft-uttered mantra of "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas", most bachelors return home no worse for the wear. For others, however, "what happened in Vegas" has resulted in damaged or broken marriages, and one Massachusetts husband will be paying the price for his misdeeds in cold hard cash.
Will an alimony recipient's cohabitation with another result in the termination of alimony?