Supreme Judicial Court Says Wife Does Not Get More Alimony Just Because Husband’s Income Goes Up

By:  Attorney Anthony C. Adamopoulos, Divorce Mediator, Arbitrator and Collaborative Law practitioner. ©2017

In a September 25th decision, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) affirmed an often misunderstood legal tenet i.e., just because the alimony paying ex-spouse starts making more money, the receiving ex-spouse does not automatically get an increase in alimony.

In the year before he filed for divorce, the husband earned over seven million dollars a year. The couple lived a lavish lifestyle where they spent “tens of thousands of dollars on articles of clothing and handbags“. The trial judge found, at trial that the husband’s income was “on an upward trajectory” and that during the marriage the couple’s expenses had increased as the husband’s income increased.

After trial, the judge ruled that since the husband’s income was “on an upward trajectory”, the wife could only maintain her standard of living “consistent with the marital lifestyle …” by giving the wife 33% of his future gross income. The wife then, was to share in the husband’s future income – the more for him; the more for her.

The SJC overturned the judge’s Judgment and found that

the most the husband should pay, if he has the ability to pay, is “the amount required to enable …[the wife] to maintain the standard of living she had at the time of the separation leading to the divorce, not the amount required to enable her to maintain the standard of living she would have had in the future if the couple had not divorced.”

          Simply put, where the high income couple facing divorce can maintain the lifestyle they had during the last days of the marriage on the husband’s income, the husband will not be ordered to pay more alimony than what the wife needs to maintain her lifestyle at the time of separation. (Want to read the case for yourself? Go to: http://www.mass.gov/courts/docs/sjc/reporter-of-decisions/new-opinions/12240.pdf ).

HOW TO USE DEADLOCK ARBITRATION

PART TWO

STALEMATE - RAM HEADS

For PART ONE – WHY CONFIDENTIAL DEADLOCK ARBITRATIONsm

Making the decision to arbitrate:

  • Deadlock Arbitrationsm can be used to resolve deadlock arising out of the Collaborative or Mediation process.
  • After deadlock, attorneys discuss arbitration with their clients. Pro se litigants discuss arbitration between themselves.
  • If all agree, an Arbitration Agreement is executed.

The basic arbitration agreement provides for:

  • Confidential and private proceedings;
  • Discretion;
  • Issue selection and limitation;
  • Binding awards (there may be a high/low agreement);
  • Any other provision agreed upon;
  • The admission of all evidence which is then given the weight determined appropriate by the arbitrator; and
  • The time and location for the arbitration hearing.

Benefits of arbitration:

  • Provides privacy – for example, hearings are not open to the public.
  • Provides confidentiality – for example, testimony and documentary evidence are not available to the public.
  • Avoids unnecessary costs – for example, affidavits may be used instead of in person expert testimony.
  • Avoids unnecessary delays – for example, there are no unexpected court like delays.

Points to consider:

  • Speed – hearings can be scheduled within days and decisions awarded within weeks.
  • Single issue determination – arbitration can be used to resolve only one issue, e.g., the final “sticking point”.
  • Arbitration awards are generally not subject to appeal.

 

WHY CONFIDENTIAL DEADLOCK ARBITRATION?

PART ONE

CAT & DOG - STALEMATE

 

What is Deadlock Arbitration?

Deadlock Arbitrationsm   is a private confidential process that avoids the need to “change over” to public court litigation when divorce mediation or Collaborative Divorce reaches a total breakdown.

What causes deadlock?

Deadlock results from a party refusing to move from a position. For example, consider this scenario:

After negotiating for a period, all issues have been resolved, except for one – the wife’s recent inheritance from her father’s estate.

The wife says, it is hers. The husband says, he wants his share.

Neither party will compromise. They are deadlocked!

A lot of pain and effort went into getting agreement on everything but this one issue.

Think about it! Only one issue prevents a resolution.

Do the parties now have to leave Mediation or the Collaborative Process and go into court litigation?

N0.

How does Deadlock Arbitrationsm work?

In Deadlock Arbitrationsm, the parties “hand pick” an arbitrator to decide the one issue.

“Their” arbitrator travels to a location selected by the parties. There, in a confidential format, totally designed by the parties (with the help of their respective attorneys or their mediator), the arbitrator listens to the presentation of each side.

The arbitrator, within an agreed upon period, makes a decision on the deadlocked issue and the parties move on.

See Part Two  for:  HOW TO USE DEADLOCK ARBITRATIONsm