Skip to main content

April Showers Brought May Flowers: How the Openshaws Prepared for Rainy Days Ahead

April Showers Brought May Flowers: How the Openshaws Prepared for Rainy Days Ahead 

by Nathaniel Butzke

    Just in time for the rainy season, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court shed new light on what it means to "live" a certain lifestyle as a married couple and how those habits should be reflected in post-divorce alimony. The case, Openshaw v. Openshaw (2024), revolved around a couple who, during their marriage, didn't just focus on living well but also on saving wisely. When their marriage came to an end, the question arose: should their habit of saving be considered part of their marital lifestyle for the purposes of determining the appropriate amount of alimony?

    The court's answer was a resounding YES. In essence, the court argued that saving isn't just a financial strategy; it's a way of life. For the Openshaws, who enjoyed a generous annual income far exceeding their living expenses, setting money aside wasn't merely about preparing for a rainy day. It was a consistent part of their lifestyle.

    The Openshaw decision clarifies a previously debated issue under the Alimony Reform Act.  The Young v. Young decision hinted at this possibility by limiting the automatic inclusion of future increases in the payor’s income and highlighting the importance of the marital lifestyle at the time of the divorce as the appropriate benchmark for setting the amount of future alimony.  However, the Young decision didn’t go as far as defining savings as part of the marital lifestyle, and the pre-Act case of Cooper v. Cooper specifically overturned an “alimony award that exceeds current need, so as to permit accumulation of assets or savings for the future.”  It was a debatable question whether the “marital lifestyle” language in the Act overrode the Cooper limitation, until now. 

    The implications of this are significant. When determining the need for support, courts can look beyond current spending habits to consider the entire scope of how a couple lives. This includes saving for the future. This means that in divorces where both parties have the financial means, both can be expected to maintain not just the living standards they enjoyed while married but also the saving habits that were part of their marital lifestyle.


Popular posts from this blog

New Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines (2021): Big Changes, Little Changes, Typos & some Unexpected Results

UPDATE: The court has released a web calculating version of the 2021 MA Child Support Guidelines Worksheet .  It resolves some of the typos referred to below, but the unexpected calculations still apply. Every four years, per federal mandate, the Massachusetts Probate & Family Court revisits the Child Support Guidelines through the work of a Task Force appointed by the Chief Justice.  The 2021 Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines were recently posted.  They take effect on October 4, 2021.    If you are interested in a training on all of these changes to the new Child Support Guidelines: DMTA Presents the 2021 MA Child Support Guidelines Update  – Attend this event to learn the key updates you need to know for your mediation clients. Presented by Justin Kelsey of  Divorce Mediation Training Associates  and  Skylark Law & Mediation, PC . For a full comparison of all the  tracked changes between the 2018 and 2021 Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines you can download a pdf sho

What is the purpose of the Divorce Nisi waiting period?

In Massachusetts the statutory waiting period after a Judgment of Divorce and before the divorce becomes final (or absolute) is called the Nisi period. After a divorce case settles or goes to trial, a Judgment of Divorce Nisi will issue and it will become Absolute after a further ninety (90) days. This waiting period serves the purpose of allowing parties to change their mind before the divorce becomes final. If the Judgment of Divorce Nisi has issued but not become final yet, and you and your spouse decide you don't want to get divorced, then you can file a Motion to Dismiss and the Judgment will be undone. Although many of my clients who are getting divorced think the idea of getting back together with their ex sounds crazy, I have had cases where this happened. In addition to offering a grace period to change your mind, the Nisi period has three other legal effects: 1. The most obvious effect of the waiting period is that you cannot remarry during the Nisi period, be

Online Tool for Creating Parenting Plans

It is our hope that all families find a way to resolve conflict peacefully.  This is especially true when children are involved.  Divorced or separated parenting has many complications and the first is just deciding how to share time with a child from two separate households.  Developing a schedule can result in a lot of tension, especially if parents have trouble picturing how this new schedule will interact with their work schedules and the schedules of their children. To help make this easier, we've created an online tool for creating parenting plans that is simple and easy to use: We encourage parents, regardless of the process they are using to divorce, to use this form to assist in evaluating and settling custody disputes. The form allows you to choose between the Model Parenting Plan proposals or customize your parenting plan over a four week period by clicking directly on the form.  When you click on a section of the calendar it switches between Mom and Dad, an