WE HELP FAMILIES RESOLVE CONFLICT PEACEFULLY


Sunday, August 30, 2009

What is the Stevenson-Kelsey Spousal Support Calculator?

UPDATE: There is pending legislation for major changes to the alimony statute in Massachusetts. The Alimony Reform Act of 2011 was filed on January 18, 2011 and you can learn more about the Act at MassAlimonyFormula.com or in our recent blog post highlighting the differences between the bill and the current law.

Attorney Scott R. Stevenson of Hingham, Massachusetts and Attorney Justin L. Kelsey, Esq. (one of the authors of this blog) created the Stevenson-Kelsey Spousal Support Calculator as a tool to enable family law practitioners to better advise their clients regarding the settlement of divorce cases where a primary issue is the proposed alimony payment from one spouse to the other.

There is not currently any “formula” for the calculation of the spousal support obligation (also referred to as “alimony”) that is endorsed by either the Massachusetts Legislature, a consensus of Massachusetts Probate and Family Court Justices, or even a consensus of Massachusetts family law practitioners.

There are many groups who are seeking more definitive changes in the alimony laws in Massachusetts, including groups of lawyers and judges, such as the Joint Alimony Task Force of the MBA and BBA, and also groups of concerned citizens such as Massachusetts Alimony Reform.

Unfortunatley, there are seemingly as many different opinions in the family law field as there are ways to interpret the broad language of MGL, Chapter 208, § 34. Section 34 is the Massachusetts statute relating to the award of spousal support which provides that, in determining the amount of alimony, if any, to be awarded to any one spouse from the other spouse, the Court shall consider: the length of the marriage, the conduct of the parties during the marriage, the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of each of the parties, the opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income, the nature and value of the property to be so assigned, the present and future needs of any dependent children of the marriage; and the Court may also consider: the contribution of each of the parties in the acquisition, preservation or appreciation in value of their respective estates and the contribution of each of the parties as a homemaker to the family unit.

Not only are these factors numerous, they are in many ways subjective and the Judges are currently left with the difficult task of combining all of these factors to create an alimony order.

The purpose of the Stevenson-Kelsey Spousal Support Calculator is not to suggest that any one of the formulas presented herein is better than any other at approximating the required evaluation under current Mass. Gen. Laws. Ch. 208 § 34. However, the authors do believe that a more consistent approach to the calculation of the alimony obligation – based on quantifiable factors – can benefit the citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in coming to agreements more quickly and more fairly, thus ending the stresses and expense of divorce litigation sooner rather than later.

Therefore, while we do not endorse any of the specific alimony guideline formulas described herein, we do hope that reference to these formulas will assist family law practitioners in providing both their clients and the Court with increased guidance on appropriate sums for alimony or spousal support in Divorce Agreements.

Each of the formulas was developed by their respective authors after considered and learned debate, and at the very least, we believe that the family law bar and our clients can both learn from the result of that debate in other forums and apply what has been learned to the resolution of disputes in Massachusetts’ divorce litigation. It is in that spirit and with that purpose that we present the Stevenson-Kelsey Spousal Support Calculator.

NOTE:
To view and use the Stevenson-Kelsey Spousal Support Calculator please visit
www.kelseytrask.com/spousalsupport.htm, or you can obtain your own copy of the Stevenson-Kelsey Spousal Support Calculator for use on your own computer by submitting a request here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Check out these fun sites:

It's time for a lighter, more fun blog post. Check out these sites/stories which we hope will add a little amusement to your day:

Husband who tries to avoid divorce proceedings by claiming the marriage ended when he died. Yes you read that correctly.

Canadians are trying to kill us with health care reform. Don't worry it's tongue in cheek, and very very funny.

Take a virtual tour of the Kelsey & Trask, P.C. offices in Natick. Now you'll know your way around when you come to visit.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mediation, Collaborative Law or Litigation: What's your Vote?

One of the first things I explain to clients in our initial one hour divorce consultation is that there are three types of professionals in Massachusetts who can help clients resolve their divorce case: Mediators, Lawyers trained in Collaborative Law, and traditional Litigators. Each of these methods has strengths and weaknesses, and they can be demonstrated by showing you how some well known couples might have experienced these various options:

Couple #1 - The Cleavers. Ward is a businessman and June is a stay-at-home mom. They have two children Wally and Beaver. Ward handles all of the finances and June handles most of the home care including parenting, although once in a while Ward is needed to help discipline the children (in a very stern but fair kind of way).

Couple #2 - The Huxtables. Cliff is a doctor and Claire is a lawyer. They have five children. They both share in parenting and managing the finances. Cliff's office is located in the home.

Couple #3 - The Honeymooners/The Kramdens. Ralph is a bus driver and Alice is currently unemployed but has worked as secretary at times when Ralph has been laid off. They have no children and Alice is primarily responsible for the management of the finances. Ralph often gets involved in ridiculous schemes that Alice claims have wasted their money. Ralph and Alice often insult each other, and Ralph makes constant threats such as "One of these days... Pow! Right in the kisser! One of these days Alice, straight to the moon!."

Please Vote for whether each couple should use mediation, collaborative law or litigation, by leaving your Comments below.

P.S. Thanks to DGVElaw for giving us the idea for this post with her estate planning couple.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Equitable Division: This isn't Judge Solomon's Court

I was recently directed to two articles involving Husbands, one in Germany, and another in Cambodia, that, as part of their divorce, took their half of their marital homes, literally. Not by selling and getting their share of the equity, and not by buying their Wife out of her share, they literally cut the house in half.

Don't get any ideas if you're getting divorced in Massachusetts, though.

In Massachusetts the Court is directed by M.G.L. c. 208 § 34 to divide the assets of the parties and award support based on numerous factors including the length of the marriage, health of the parties, age of the parties, income of the parties, opportunity for future acquisition of assets and income, and more.

When considering all of these factors, we often discover that an equal division of the assets, i.e. a 50/50 division, is the equitable and fair resolution. However, there are also cases where the totality of the circumstances require an unequal division. You won't find Judge Solomon in a Massachusetts' Court, though you might still find some wisdom.

P.S. Don't think it only happens in other countries. This couple in New York built a wall down the middle of their house.

Thanks to Michael Paonessa for sending us these articles.
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