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Massachusetts Divorce Law Monitor

What you never thought you'd need to know about divorce

Updates on Alimony Law

Posted in Alimony and Child Custody, Court Decisions

Hi there,

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.


It may be months before a decision is reached.

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 Merriot, Roberta Rodman vs. George Rodman, and Joseph W. Doktor vs. Dorothy A. Doktor. Having read the briefs on the cases on appeal I think that the proponents of a strict interpretation of the statute to be the most convincing. Particularly clear and straightforward is the brief written by Edith Merriot’s counsel, Leslie Powers.

The central issues in all 3 cases deal with whether or not the language of the act allows modification to terminate alimony, (other than for the durational requirements, where the ability to terminate is clear) in agreements approved by the courts before the Alimony Reform Act was instituted. There were a number of amicus briefs. These are briefs filed on behalf of one position or another, which the Court asks for when the issue is important. Also on appeal is the question of when and how does cohabitation end alimony under the Act.

The SJC will render its ruling sometime six to nine months from now. In the meantime, decisions on cases of this type in the Probate and Family Court will likely be on hold.


Gay Marriage now Legal in Majority of States

Posted in Court Decisions, Gay Marriage and Divorce

Hi there,

I hope you all are enjoying this gorgeous fall morning. I’ve been sneaking peaks at the SCOTUS law blog to see what was going to happen with all the pending gay marriage appeals. Today is the day the Supreme Court was going to announce the cases it will be hearing this year.

I’m happy to share that today the Supreme Court denied certiorari on ALL of the gay marriage cases. (That’s lawyer speak for “refused to hear.”) In effect this means that the lower court rulings, all of which allowed gay marriage, stand.

Happy Monday!



How Are You Going to Pay for College?

Posted in Finances and Divorce, Parenting, Children & Divorce
piggy bank break the bank

Poor little guy never saw it coming…

Separated or divorced parents face unique challenges regarding the financial impact of preparing for and paying for their children to attend college. Luckily, there are ways to handle the situation without breaking the bank!

Next week my firm is hosting a complimentary lunch event called College Smarts: Understand Your Options to Help Protect Your Family’s Financial Future, and I’m writing to extend the invitation.

The presenter, Gregg Cohen of Campus Bound, will cover topics including:

  • What are some of the unique considerations that separated or divorced parents should make when it comes to reducing the cost or paying for college?
  • Is that expensive private college worth it?
  • Ways to make college less expensive, regardless of your eligibility for need-based aid (FAFSA).
  • How much debt is too much and other considerations when determining your college budget.
  • How to identify colleges that are a good fit academically, socially and financially.
  • What are the best ways for grandparents to help save and pay for college and what are the pitfalls?

The event is scheduled to begin at 12:00 noon on September 30, and will be held at Burns & Levinson’s Boston office. Lunch will be served.  If you’re interested in attending, please click here to register. It’s sure to be a very productive lunch hour!