The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has heard arguments in a case and will decide an issue which may result in changes to future decisions regarding alimony. As written, the alimony statute does not require a termination date of payments to a former spouse unless expressly stated in the divorce agreement. Alimony orders issued by the Court are essentially in effect until a spouse's death or until the party receiving alimony remarries.
Arguments in the case, Rudolph Pierce v. Carneice Pierce (SJC No. 10381) heard in May 2009, pivot on the question whether an ex-husband can seek termination of alimony payments to his ex-wife upon entrance into voluntary retirement. The Pierces married in 1967 and divorced in 1999. Their separation agreement required the husband, Rudolph, to pay $110,000 yearly to his ex-wife, Carneice. At the time of their divorce, Rudolph worked as a litigation attorney with an annual income of $452,515. Carneice at the time made $40,376 annually. At the Probate Court level, Judge Leilah Keamy reduced the amount the husband had to pay in alimony but did not eliminate it. The plaintiff's brief argues that as of his retirement in April 2008, he no longer receives an income whereas his ex-wife voluntarily quit a $95,000-a-year job despite the fact that her current expenses are roughly double those of her ex-husband, and 60% higher than they were at the time of the divorce.
The issue of post-retirement alimony has been a contested one amongst practitioners for years. A ruling in favor of the husband, some argue, would be a major public policy shift. A task force of the Massachusetts and Boston Bar Associations is finalizing recommendations on how to best ensure 'consistency and predictability' in alimony awards. The MBA in June endorsed the creation of a general presumption of alimony termination at retirement. The final decision, however, still remains in the hands of the court.
This post written by Vanessa St. Leger, NUSL 2010, who is currently enjoying a co-op in family law with Otis & Associates, P.C. Edited by Gail P. Otis, EsquireDivorce Tags: alimony, Divorce, modification Comments (2) Trackbacks (0)