- Rehabilitative Alimony ordered instead of General Term Alimony - AFFIRMED
- Husband's bonus income not included in alimony amount calculation - REMANDED
- Wife ordered to maintain life insurance for her child related obligations - REMANDED
- Property Division not exactly equal - AFFIRMED
"The legislative history clearly shows that the broad discretion judges historically have had in making awards of alimony was not affected by the Alimony Reform Act of 2011, St. 2011, c. 124 (alimony reform act). Indeed, the Legislature appears to have viewed the creation of the four categories of alimony as providing greater discretion to judges." Zaleski (emphasis added).
"However, we conclude that, in some circumstances, the potential of future reemployment may provide a basis for deciding that rehabilitative, rather than general term, alimony should be awarded." Zaleski.
This is consistent with a recent Appeals Court 1:28 decision that we previously posted about.
The Wife argued that the 35% award was not sufficient to meet the marital lifestyle, but the SJC supported the limitation based on the lower court's findings that the parties, despite their significant household income during the marriage, overspent. This is interesting in that the SJC is willing to let a Judge second guess marital lifestyle of the parties, while at the same time requiring that the marital lifestyle defines need. Once again, this confirms that good findings will give trial judge's significant discretion.
6. BONUSES should be included, UNLESS...
The Act defines income to include all income as defined by the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines which clearly includes bonuses. The lower court therefore erred by not including bonuses. However, the SJC didn't go so far as to say that the lower court order was vacated on this issue. The SJC left the door open for lower courts to exclude bonuses by how they remanded this issue:
"Because the alimony amount was not calculated on the basis of all of the husband's income, as required by the statute, and because the finding that the wife agreed that the husband need not pay child support was erroneous, we are unable to conclude that the amount of alimony was determined after due consideration of all of the statutory factors." Zaleski.The SJC is essentially saying that the interplay of child support in this case, specifically "no child support order" and the Husband's paying all of the private school costs, might be a factor in excluding some of his income, for instance his bonuses, from the alimony calculation. However, they are remanding this issue because the lower court's findings were not consistent enough with this potential reasoning.
7. DEBT during SEPARATION is probably SEPARATE DEBT
The Wife also challenged the property division on what the SJC seemed to think was a little too meticulous of an accounting and also on the significantly unequal debt division ($75,519.04 to Wife and $26,200.71 to Husband). The SJC pointed out that $57,000 of the Wife's debt was credit card debt incurred by her alone while the Husband was paying the costs of the home and giving her cash. While presumably the Wife felt that the temporary arrangement was not sufficient, the SJC's unwillingness to second guess this issue highlights the importance of temporary orders. Whatever the temporary order was, the SJC is not going to look to redo an accounting for the period of separation.