For How Long Will Alimony Run?

By: Anthony C. Adamopoulos, Divorce Mediator, Arbitrator and Collaborative Divorce Attorney

Alimony here refers to the most common type – General Term.

The length or duration of alimony is contingent on two factors.

The first is the length of the marriage. (Italics are quotes from the Alimony Reform Law.)

The length of the marriage begins, at a minimum, from the date of marriage. However, the court (or arbitrator) may increase the length … if there is evidence that the parties’ economic marital partnership began during their cohabitation … prior to the marriage.

If there was an economic marital partnership, an extension to the length of the marriage, is in the discretion of the judge (or arbitrator).

Some evidence of an economic marital partnership includes the couple:

  • holding themselves out as an intact family;
  • wearing rings, they bought for each other;
  • participating in activities together with their children;
  • vacationing together;
  • sharing finances;
  • sharing the cost of housing.

The length of the marriage ends when a spouse is served a notice of divorce.

The second factor. Once the length of the marriage is determined, the judge (or arbitrator) then sets the duration of alimony.

Presumptive limits on the duration of alimony are based on the length of the marriage.

Where the marriage is longer than 20 years, alimony may extend for an indefinite length of time… .

For 20 years or less there are four categories of duration:

(1) If the length of the marriage is 5 years or less, … not longer than one-half the number of months of the marriage.

(2) [for] 10 years or less, but more than 5 years… not longer than 60 per cent of the number of months of the marriage.

(3 [for] 15 years or less, but more than 10 years, …not longer than 70 per cent of the number of months of the marriage.

(4) [for] 20 years or less, but more than 15 years, …not longer than 80 per cent of the number of months of the marriage.

 The above duration categories are presumptive and the judge (or arbitrator) may deviate from the presumption. (Rules for deviation are left for another article.)

So, to determine the presumptive duration of alimony, first determine the length of the marriage and then fit the length into one of the 5 duration periods.

 

© 2019 Anthony C. Adamopoulos

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PREMIER LAWYERS OF AMERICA RECOGNIZES ANTHONY C. ADAMOPOULOS

Anthony C. Adamopoulos a Divorce Mediator and Collaborative Divorce Attorney of Topsfield has been nominated for membership in Premier Lawyers of America.

Nominated attorneys have been found to demonstrate the highest standards of excellence in the practice of law. Nominations are made by attorneys or by the Premier Lawyers of America advisory committee.

ANTHONY C. ADAMOPOULOS’ DIVORCE RESOLUTION SERVICES  

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Free Educational Program – Chart Your Course to a Better Divorce

North Shore Collaborative Divorce will present a free educational program “Chart Your Course to a Better Divorce” addressing how the collaborative divorce process may be a better way to divorce.  The educational program will review the basic legal, emotional and financial issues commonly encountered during the divorce process.

Collaborative divorce takes a team approach.  The “team” consists of both parties, their respective attorneys, a neutral facilitator to address emotional and communication challenges which may arise and a neutral financial professional to help the team gather and understand financial information.  All of the professionals have completed Collaborative Divorce training.

The program will be presented by a panel of Collaboratively Certified professionals who practice on the North Shore and who will explain how Collaborative Divorce differs from divorce mediation and divorce litigation.  Some benefits of Collaborative Divorce are confidentiality of negotiations and a sensitive and informal approach that allows parties to control the agenda and pace of their progress.

The presentation will be repeated on the following dates and locations:

  • Thursday, October 3, 2019, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., in Meeting Room A, at the Flint Public Library, 1 South Main Street, Middleton, MA, 01949
  • Saturday, November 16, 2019, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., at the Gordon Meeting Room of the Danvers (Peabody Institute) Library, 15 Sylvan Street,  Danvers, MA 01923

All are welcome.  Simply register by calling Donna at 978-744-9591 or email to acaboston@aol.com with Subject Line – Register

#DIVORCE

#DIVORCEMEDIATION

#COLLABORATIVEDIVORCE

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IF WE GO TO COURT, WILL OUR PROPERTY BE DIVIDED DOWN THE MIDDLE?

By:  Anthony C. Adamopoulos, Divorce Mediator, Arbitrator and Collaborative Divorce Attorney

No. Massachusetts is an Equitable Division state. This means a judge determines what is a fair division of the assets and it may not be 50/50.

The law provides a list of certain factors a judge must consider in “fixing the nature and value of the property to be so assigned”* to each party.  The required considerations are:

  1. the length of the marriage,
  2. the conduct of the parties during the marriage,
  3. the age of each party,
  4. the health of each party,
  5. the station of the parties,
  6. the occupation of each party,
  7. the amount and sources of income of each party,
  8. the vocational skills of each party,
  9. the employability of each party,
  10. the estate of the parties,
  11. the liabilities and needs of each of the parties,
  12. the opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income, and
  13. the amount and duration of alimony, if any, awarded.

In addition, the law says the judge may in “fixing the nature and value of the property to be so assigned” consider the following:

  1. the present and future needs of the dependent children of the marriage,
  2. the contribution of each of the parties in the acquisition, preservation or appreciation in value of their respective estates, and
  3. the contribution of each of the parties as a homemaker to the family unit.

So, the 50/50 rule does not apply in Massachusetts, and the Rule of Equitable Division provides for the consideration of many factors before a division is made.

 

*You can read the actual law by Googling: Mass Gen Law C.208, Sec.34

©2019 Anthony C. Adamopoulos

ANTHONY C. ADAMOPOULOS AMONG TOP 10 FAMILY LAW ATTORNEYS IN MASSACHUSETTS

Topsfield divorce attorney and mediator Anthony C. Adamopoulos is pleased to announce that Attorney and Practice Magazine has ranked him among the top 10 family law attorneys in Massachusetts.

Attorney and Practice Magazine is a quarterly publication “addressing law firm management, attorney well-being, work/life balance, and the ever-changing technology that impacts a …practice.”  The List recognizes the significant achievements of those attorneys whose practice elevates the standards of the Massachusetts’ Bar.

ANTHONY C. ADAMOPOULOS’ DIVORCE RESOLUTION SERVICES  

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© 2019 Anthony C. Adamopoulos

 

Facing Divorce? Here are Some Basics…

By Attorney Anthony C. Adamopoulos – Collaborative Attorney, Divorce Mediator and Divorce Arbitrator

For those facing divorce, the summer is often a time of “thinking about it”.

Well, here is something to think about.

There comes a time when a person must stop looking to the past and begin to picture the future. If that future means divorce, then some real consideration must be given to moving into the future without needlessly spending monies that could be used for other needs.

Here are some basic suggestions:

  1. Join with your spouse in the joint self-serving purpose of “getting through this” by concentrating on the future. Because — when a divorcing party seeks to punish the other, everyone feels the pain.
  2. Consider avoiding the court process by using Mediation, Collaborative Divorce or Divorce Arbitration (see my website for more information on these dispute resolution procedures – DivorcingOptions.com).
  3. Recognize that options 1 and 2 may be difficult because the other spouse may be what professionals call “The Reluctant Spouse”. When this is the case, be sure the professional with whom you work is familiar working with and winning over The Reluctant Spouse.

Good luck,

Anthony 

© 2019 Anthony C. Adamopoulos

 

ANTHONY C. ADAMOPOULOS’ DIVORCE RESOLUTION SERVICES  

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#DIVORCE

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A Question Often Asked – Will I have to pay both child support and alimony?

By:    Anthony C. Adamopoulos, Divorce Mediator, Arbitrator & Collaborative Lawyer

Generally, alimony will not be granted where total family income does not exceed $250,000.00.

Over this amount, the judge first determines if there is a need for alimony. To do this, the judge considers the income of each party. (The person receiving child support includes it in their income. The person paying support deducts it from their income.)

The judge then determines the reasonable need of each party and if each party’s income covers need. Need is based upon the standard of living of the parties when they were living together.

If income does not cover need, the judge will try to divide the total income so that each party can meet their respective need. When there is not enough money to meet respective need, the judge will have the parties share the deficit. The judge will consider certain guidelines in doing this.

#DIVORCEMEDIATION
#DIVORCEARBITRATION
#COLLABORATIVEDIVORCE
#ALIMONY
#CHILDSUPPORT

ANTHONY C. ADAMOPOULOS’ DIVORCE RESOLUTION SERVICES  

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© 2019 Anthony C. Adamopoulos

 

Divorce Arbitration is the Way to Go! So……

A decision of our Appeals Court, Gravlin v. Gravlin, is helpful for those facing divorce.

For collaborative divorce attorneys and divorce mediators, the decision confirms that arbitration is the viable alternative to court litigation for resolving a single issue or even taking the place of a full court trial.

In Gravlin, the Appeals Court acknowledged “… arbitration has long been recognized as a valid means of resolving disputes between divorcing parties.” This Blog has often praised the value of arbitration as an alternative to divorce litigation; with Gravlin, the Appeals Court stamped an imprimatur of sorts on divorce arbitration.

While arbitration is available to replace a public court trial, it is also available if collaboration or mediation reaches a deadlock (a stalemate on one or two remaining issues); then, it is time for divorce arbitration.

When parties follow a simple process, the Appeals Court promises a “… strict standard of review [that] is high[ly] deferential…” to an arbitration award.

What does the simple process involve? The simple process requires that:

  • Respective counsel advise each party.
  • Parties freely enter an Agreement to Arbitrate.
  • Parties knowingly waive a court trial and submit to arbitration.

If there is any trial court review of an arbitration award, the review will be limited to determining:

  • The arbitrator’s award was confined to what he/she was asked to decide;
  • The award did not give relief that is prohibited by law;
  • The award is not based on fraud, arbitrary conduct, or procedural irregularity in the hearing.

(In my experience, the selection of an experienced, knowledgeable arbitrator will result in a positive review and enforcement of the award.)

For collaborative attorneys and mediators, Gravlin is another reason to recommend arbitration for settlement stalemate.

For parties facing divorce or divorce stalemate, arbitration is an alternative to a costly, lengthy and publicly litigated trial.

*Anthony is a divorce arbitrator, collaborative attorney and divorce mediator. His office is in Salem.

© 2016 Anthony C. Adamopoulos

 

Mediation and Arbitration of Temporary Orders in Divorce by Howard Goldstein, Mediator and Collaborative Divorce Lawyer

For some time now, from time to time, I have sat in Family Court and watched as the ‘Motion Session’ played out. Litigants waiting, sometime for hours, to get “five minutes” to argue, for example, why Plaintiff needs “support” and why Defendant believes Plaintiff should not get the support. Or perhaps, mother and father have taken a day off  from work to each argue why the kids should be with them for Christmas.

There is a better and wiser way and my colleague Howard Goldstein has explained it well in his article, reprinted below.

The traditional start to a divorce case in Massachusetts is the filing of a complaint, service of a summons and scheduling of temporary orders. The temporary orders are designed to tide over the parties with custody and financial orders that maintain the status quo, or at least the peace, until the case is ready for trial. In Massachusetts a contested no-fault divorce cannot be scheduled for trial any earlier than six months after filing of the complaint, but in practice it usually takes more than a year to get a trial. Because we have a single calendar system now, the judge who decides the temporary orders is likely to be the same judge who presides at trial. For that reason, the decision on temporary orders can determine the entire course of a case and have a major impact on the outcome.

The decision to promptly proceed to temporary orders carries some serious risks however. It is not likely that meaningful discovery will have taken place before the hearing, the clients and lawyers are new to each other, and the tensions and drama attendant to the early stages of a divorce combine to make it more likely that the Judge at the temporary order stage will get it wrong. It is never clear at the outset which party will benefit from the riskiness of the process. It is very difficult once a temporary order is entered by a judge to get it modified. So with a year or longer to a trial, a bad result at the temporary order stage could create undue pressure on at least one of the clients, to either capitulate and settle, or escalate the litigation to try to force a more favorable result. All of this comes at great expense both financially and emotionally. The family can be effected for generations by a hastily convened hearing on temporary orders.

Even in a case that will eventually go to trial, mediating or arbitrating at the temporary order stage can be quite beneficial. Consider the following:

  1. A settlement arrived at by mediation may, by agreement, not be filed in Court and therefore the parties will not prejudice the trial judge one way or another.
  2. Even if the parties wish to file the settlement in Court, the stipulation can be clear that it is without prejudice to a future contested motion for temporary orders. Since the trial judge did not make the decision and it’s a settlement, it will be more likely that it can be modified if circumstances change and it does not reflect the point of view of the trial judge, so that the settlement negotiations, or the trial, if necessary, is much more of a “blank slate” process.
  3. The stipulation for temporary orders can recite a short period of time during which it is operative: perhaps 3 months or 6 months, to give the parties time to negotiate a comprehensive settlement after all discovery has taken place and everyone has access to all relevant information.  Unlike in litigation, in mediation there is no winner or loser, so neither party will feel they have an edge or an advantage, contributing to a better negotiating climate for final resolution.
  4. Typically a Motion for temporary orders will get 15 or 20 minutes of a judge’s attention in Court. The parties can devote as much time as they want to the mediation.
  5. If the parties are unable to agree on temporary orders with the assistance of a mediator, they can agree to arbitrate—in that case a neutral person is given the power by the parties to make the decision. There is a process that is called Med/Arb in which the parties make a good faith effort to settle their motions with the assistance of a mediator, and if its not possible, the same mediator can be authorized in advance to just make a decision after a certain amount of time has passed. Such a process creates incentives to settle, but also gives the parties confidence that if they can’t reach an agreement someone will make a binding decision. The parties can agree in advance with an arbitrator to boundaries that will make the process less risky. For example, the arbitration can be what is called a high low arbitration. The parties set the boundaries within which the decision will be made. So the arbitrator can be authorized to set alimony but it has to be within a predetermined range, acceptable to both parties, or it can be limited to a period of time, such as three months or six months. None of this flexibility is available at a hearing on temporary orders before a judge.

If parties are willing to be creative there are many opportunities to come up with a dispute resolution process that is more client friendly and more flexible than what is available in the Courts. In my experience mediation is most often considered only at the end of a case when it is close to a trial date. This may come from a misguided assumption that appearing too eager for a settlement is a sign of weakness. The opposite is true. Mediating or arbitrating the temporary orders stage of a case make it more likely that the case will settle in its entirety. Clients and opposing counsel can see through posturing. Demonstrating thoughtfulness and creativity in reaching solutions will be respected by your opposing counsel and appreciated by your clients.

 

Howard’s office is in Newton.  Thank you, Howard. 

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.