Massachusetts Divorce Cases / Alimony
On this page we are compiling links to the full text of important Massachusetts Appellate Cases on Family Law and Divorce decided by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the Massachusetts Appeals Court.
These cases are for educational purpose only and should not be used for any official or legal purpose. Please consult official reports. Below you will be able to search for Massachusetts Appeals Court Slip Opinions and Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Slip Opinions relating to Alimony.
Alimony Cases in Massachusetts
Anderson v. Anderson, 39 Mass. App. Ct. 907 (1995):
Andrews v. Andrews,
Andrews v. Andrews, 27 Mass. App. Ct. 759 (1989): Judge treated husband's military pension as "stream of income" to be used as a source of alimony for the wife instead of being a capital asset which would be equitably divided. The wife was subject to an indefinite medical prognosis therefore the court reasoned alimony would be more appropriate because it could be adjusted up and down whereas equitable division could not be altered to meet the wife's changing circumstances.
Anthony v. Anthony, 21 Mass. App. Ct. 299 (1985):
Barron v. Puzo, 415 Mass. 54 (1993): Fourteen years after ex-husband made his final alimony payment, the ex-wife filed a complaint for modification seeking a new order for alimony. The ex-husband died shortly after the complaint was filed. The court held that the ex-wife's complaint did not survive the ex-husband's death and denied the new order because alimony that had been ordered was limited and fixed, and husband had paid in full to the explicit satisfaction of the divorce decree.
Becker v. Phelps, DOCKET 13-P-951 (2014): Termination upon Remarriage, Surviving Agreements. Parties agreed in a written agreement which survives (except for those elements of the agreement which deal with their children) that Wife would pay Husband two-lump sums of $500,000 in lieu of alimony, and interest payments every year on what is owed until the lump sums are paid. Before payment was completed, Husband remarried. Wife argued that under the alimony reform act, which passed after the agreement, payments should cease. The act states in G.L.c 208 § 49(a) that general term alimony shall terminate upon the remarriage of the recipient, and also provides that existing alimony awards are considered general term alimony. The appeals court held that the lump sum payments were not properly considered alimony because they are described in the agreement as payments made as consideration for Husband's waiver of alimony. However, the court considered the interest payments alimony because they are referred to as such in the agreement. The court held that because the agreement survives, it cannot be modified and all payments must continue, whether considered as alimony or otherwise. The Court did not credit Wife's argument that termination is distinct from modification- casting it as a hair splitting and contrary to legislative intent.
Bercume v. Bercume, 428 Mass. 635 (1999): Parties signed a separation agreement in which they waived their right to alimony. Wife filed for modification of alimony and the court held the court still maintains jurisdiction to modify a decree of alimony.
Bertocchi v. Ross, 50 Mass. App. Ct. 77 (2000): The trial court ma not order in a divorce judgment that an award of alimony to the wife will terminate upon the husband reaching the age of 65. The court may not order the termination of alimony on the occurrence of an event unrelated to the recipient's need for alimony or the supporting spouse's ability to pay.
Bohner v. Bohner, 18 Mass. App. Ct. 545 (1984):
Borman v. Borman, 378 Mass. 775 (1979):
Bowring v. Reid, 399 Mass. 265 (1987): A trial court judge who makes a determination of property division and or alimony must make findings that indicate that the judge considered all the MGL c. 208 § 34 factors. Where a judge fails to make such considerations, the case must be remanded for further proceedings and a proper determination.
Brady v. Brady, 8 Mass. App. Ct. 43 (1979): A trial court judge does not have the authority to order that future unpaid alimony and child support would be credited against his interest in the marital home by the department of welfare. Also the case was remanded for determination of alimony because the trial judge failed to acknowledge consideration of all relevant MGL c 208 § 34 factors in the judgment of divorce.
Braun v. Braun, 68 Mass. App. Ct. 846 (2007): Trial judge's order that Husband pay Wife 43% of his base salary plus 33% of all bonuses for alimony and child support, was not excessive. MGL c. 208 § 36 provides that an alimony payor can be required to provide life insurance in the name of the recipient as a security for alimony.
Britton v. Britton, 69 Mass. App. Ct. 23 (2007): Husband appeals trial courts order that 40% of his income be paid to wife as alimony stating that the order is an "irrational alimony figure." Appeals court found no abuse of discretion where husband was left with an income that was $20,000 more than the amount the wife would receive in alimony. The main goal of alimony is to restore the dependent spouse to an economic style close to what was enjoyed during the marriage. That standard however should not limit the amount of alimony based on a spouse's need.
Broome v. Broome, 43 Mass. App. Ct. 539 (1997): The court may override an alimony provision that survives in a separation agreement only to prevent the ex-spouse from becoming a ward of the state.
Buckley v. Buckley, 42 Mass. App. Ct. 716 (1997):
C.D.L. vs. M.M.L., 72 Mass. App. Ct. 146 (2008): The trial judge correctly attributed $170,000 - $175,000 to the Husband for the purposes of determining alimony because the judge found that the Husband had withdrawn as a partner from a large law firm and currently had no income or employment. When attributing income to a spouse for the purposes of determining an award of alimony, a judge is not required to the parties' actual earnings, but may consider potential earnings capacity. Additionally, the trial judge correctly did not consider the Wife's investment income in determining an award for alimony because the investment income came to the Wife's possession as a result of the parties division of assets in this divorce action.
Cherrinton v. Cherrington, 404 Mass. 267 (1989): The former wife requested modification of her divorce judgment seeking an increase of child support payments, and alimony. The court held that: 1) the wife's request for alimony after a divorce judgment should have been filed as a unique complaint, separate from one for modification of judgment, 2) former wife should not be required to show material change in circumstance when request for alimony when the request is treated as a request for original award, and 3) the record did not indicate that the judge considered all the statutory factors when alimony was determined.
Chin vs. Merriot, SJC-11715 (2015):
Cohan v. Feuer, 442 Mass. 151 (2004): Death of either spouse terminates an obligation to pay alimony unless the original decree, agreement or court order provide otherwise.
Cooper v. Cooper, 62 Mass. App. Ct. 130 (2004): An increase in the Husband's alimony obligation by 18% of the gross cash portion of his bonuses was not supported by the evidence. The trial court judge properly assessed the lifestyle of the parties but failed to explain to what extent the Husband's increased income would affect an alimony obligation and to what extent the separation agreement already provided the Wife with sufficient support to enjoy the lifestyle that she had during the marriage.
Coppinger v. Coppinger, 57 Mass. App. Ct. 709 (2003):
Daugherty v. Daugherty, 50 Mass. App. Ct. 738 (2001): The Wife was entitled to an award of alimony based on the Husband's "surplus" instead of the Wife's need because need is only one of the many factors that a trial court judge must use to determine an appropriate award of alimony and here the court found that the Wife work 54 hours a week at a laundry mat for 6 dollars an hour. The court properly inferred that the Wife had little chance for future acquisition of assets and income based on her employment.
D.L. v. G.L., 61 Mass. App. Ct. 488 (2004): The Appeals Court upheld the trial court's decision not to assign the interests of the husband in various family trusts, ruling that the husband's acquisition of the assets of the trusts was not fairly certain. However, the trial court could and did consider the trusts in relation to his opportunity for future acquisitions of capital assets and to the extent he had present discretionary interests in income from trusts could consider them as streams of income for purpose of setting alimony and child support. But alimony cannot be time limited based merely on the potential for the wife to receive a substantial inheritance at some indefinite future date.
Downey v. Downey, 55 Mass. App. Ct. 812 (2002): In an action for modification of a judgment of divorce nisi, the judge awarded alimony to the former wife, taking into account the fact that the loss of child support income upon the emancipation of the divorced couple's youngest child constituted a material change of circumstances, and also considered the history of the proceedings and other relevant circumstances of the parties. He concluded that the wife's resources were not sufficient for her support. The judge ordered the former husband to pay the former wife's attorney's fees, where the judge considered all relevant factors, including the husband's obstructionist conduct which prolonged the proceedings and caused the wife's counsel to engage in extraordinary discovery efforts.
Dwight v. Dwight, 52 Mass. App. Ct. 739 (2001): Ex-wife brought a complaint under the terms of her separation agreement which survived the divorce judgment. The court awarded the wife $2,600.00 per month in alimony, of which the Husband appealed. The court held that the Husband received a "substantial inheritance" which provided the Husband with an increased income which justified the higher alimony award. The court also held that there was a material change in circumstance which warranted the Wife to seek alimony.
Flannery v. Flannery, 429 Mass. 55 (1999): A claim for alimony payments under a support agreement against the estate of the deceased former husband more than five years after his death but before the estate was fully administered, was barred by the one-year limitations period set forth in G. L. c. 197, s. 9 (a), with respect to payments that accrued during the one-year period after the former husband's death, but not with respect to payments that accrued thereafter.
George v. George, Docket: SJC-12059 (2016):
Goldman v. Goldman, 28 Mass. App. Ct. 603 (1990): It was error of the trial court to award a low amount of alimony because the judge determined that the Wife's contribution to the marriage was minimum due to the fact that her children had behavior problems. Additionally, the court's approval of the parties' lifestyle was irrelevant in its determination of alimony. There was no basis for limiting alimony to only eight years where the parties where in a long term marriage.
Gordon v. Gordon, 26 Mass. App. Ct. 973 (1988): The divorced Husband appealed judgment nisi granting him rehabilitative instead of permanent alimony. The Appeals Court held that the Husband was capable of earning income but the alimony order was not immune from modification if the Husbands predicted future employment failed to materialize.
Gottsegen v. Gottsegen, 397 Mass. 617 (1986): *Overturned by Keller v. O'Brien, 425 Mass. 774, 777 (1997)* The court may not limit an order of alimony because of a non statutory factor. The court could not terminate an award of alimony because the ex-Wife had begun to cohabitate with another man.
Greenberg v. Greenberg, 68 Mass. App. Ct. 344 (2007): Complaint for divorce filed in the Middlesex Division of the Probate and Family Court Department on July 24, 1992. Neither the findings nor the uncontroverted evidence support the conclusion that there was a change in the parties' circumstances justifying a downward modification in Frederic's alimony obligation. Frederic's request for double costs and attorney's fees related to this appeal is denied.
Grubert v. Grubert, 20 Mass. App. Ct. 811 (1985): When awarding alimony to a spouse, the "need" of a spouse is determined by "the 'station' of the parties --- by what is required to maintain a standard of living comparable to the one enjoyed during the marriage."
Harris v. Harris, 23 Mass. App. Ct. 931 (1986): Appeal from a modification judgment ordering that the husband's alimony obligation continues at specific rates until it is eliminated. The wife claims that the husband failed to sustain his burden of demonstrating that the parties have experienced a material change in their circumstances, let alone a "more than a material change" standard (Stansel v. Stansel, 385 Mass. 510, 515 ), which she argues was required to warrant a modification of the divorce judgment. She also argues that the court made erroneous findings of fact and failed to consider all of the factors set forth in G. L. c. 208, Section 34, prior to entering the modification judgment.
Hassey v. Hassey, 85 Mass. App. Ct. 518 (2014):
Heins v. Ledis, 422 Mass. 477 (1996): An award of alimony for the purpose of reimbursing the Wife for her lost investment in the Husband's veterinary business was held improper. Also, the Wife was not entitled to alimony terminating after six years or death of either party because the trial judge did not indicate that the Wife had a financial need nor did he justify the conditions once which alimony would terminate. Alimony is improper without a finding of financial need on the part of the recipient. A spouse does not have a right to alimony which would enable that spouse to live the lifestyle the parties were accustom to during the marriage to the other spouse's detriment.
Heistand v. Heistand, 384 Mass. 20 (1981): Husband was denied reimbursement for alimony alleging he overpaid because wife's so-called remarriage while she was still married. The second marriage was considered a legal nullity and the husband was still under an obligation to pay until divorce nisi in their marriage was final.
Homewood v. Homewood, 11 Mass. App. Ct. 864 (1981):
Huddleston v. Huddleston, 51 Mass. App. Ct. 563 (2001): Wife's inability to become self-supportive nor Husband's retirement and reaching the age of 65 years old are not sufficient changes in circumstance to warrant termination or an alimony award or elimination of the cost-of-living adjustments that were provided for in the parties prior modification judgment. Due to the parties separation agreement which required that the Husband maintain life insurance, with the Wife listed as the beneficiary, until alimony terminated, the Husband was also ordered to continue to maintain life insurance because alimony could not termination for the above reasons.
J.D.H. vs. P.A.H., 71 Mass. App. Ct. 285 (2008): Alimony award for Wife was proper where the judge found that the Wife suffered from mental illness and had been treated in the hospital, she was 50 years old and her mental health issues would affect her ability to find future employment.
Katz v. Katz, 55 Mass. App. Ct. 472 (2002): In a proceeding for modification of alimony, the Probate Court judge abused her discretion terminating the husband's alimony obligation without appropriate consideration of all the relevant circumstances. The evidence established the existence of assets that were available to the husband to pay some level of support without impoverishing him. The record established that is the wife did not receive any alimony she would be reduced to poverty.
Kehoe v. Kehoe, 31 Mass. App. Ct. 958 (1992): An award of $14,300 per year is improper where the parties were married for 23 ½ years and where the parties attained an affluent lifestyle. The dependent spouse is entitled to an award of alimony which will provide her with a standard of living that is comparable to that which she enjoyed during the marriage. It is also appropriate for the judge to consider the potential, instead of the actual, earnings of a spouse when determining an award of alimony.
Keller v. O'Brien, 420 Mass. 820 (1995): Wife's remarriage made a prima facie case for termination of the ex-Husband's alimony obligation absent extraordinary circumstances being shown as to why the ex-Wife would continue to need support.
Keller v. O'Brien, 425 Mass. 774 (1997): Were an alimony recipient remarries, it is that spouse obligation to show that continued alimony payments are necessary and must show that there is an "extraordinary" circumstance that warrants continuation of the alimony payments. The court also held that it was inequitable to award the payor spouse restitution of alimony payments paid to ex-Wife after her remarriage but before the entry of this judgment.
Kelley v. Kelley, 64 Mass. App. Ct. 733 (2005): In order to make a determination of whether or not an order of alimony can be modified, the judge must weight all relevant statutory factors. Here, the appeals court overturned a trial judge's decision to decrease the Husband's alimony obligation because the trial judge did not make a finding that there was a material change in circumstances relevant to the statutory factors.
Kernan v. Morse, 69 Mass. App. Ct. 378 (2007): Husband sought to reduce his alimony obligation because he had lost his job and the Wife's investment income had increased significantly. The Wife filed a motion for summary judgment against the Husband's complaint for modification. The trial court allowed the Wife's motion. The Massachusetts Appeals Court over turns the trial court's decision and remanded the case for further review and consideration of whether the Wife has any need for support based on her improved financial situation.
Kinosian v. Kinosian, 351 Mass. 49 (1966):
Kirtz v. Kirtz, 12 Mass. App. Ct. 141 (1981):
Larson v. Larson, 37 Mass. App. Ct. 106 (1994): Ex-Husband violated his duty to his ex-spouse when he retired early and failed to make other arrangements so that his ex-Wife could continue to receive alimony which was prescribed under the terms of their separation agreement. Under the agreement, alimony was a percentage of the Husband's income, which went down significantly upon his early retirement.
Levenson v. Feuer, 60 Mass. App. Ct. 428 (2004): Husband attempted to renegotiate the terms of his separation agreement which included that he make a lump sum alimony payment, after the divorce.
Lombardi v. Lombardi, 68 Mass. App. Ct. 407 (2007): Wife filed a complaint seeking to recover from husband's arrears in past alimony and child support payments. The husband argues that the wife's claim should be barred by the doctrine of laches for lack of personal jurisdiction since he resided in New York. The Appellate Court denies this claim stating that alimony obligation is ongoing, and the statutory basis for the exercise of personal jurisdiction is satisfied. The husband resided in Massachusetts, married there, and incurred alimony obligations that were reduced to a Massachusetts judgment. His subsequent and lengthy voluntary departure from the Commonwealth neither attenuates nor eradicates the substantiality of these contacts with Massachusetts. Furthermore, the doctrine of laches does not apply because his alimony obligation arises from a judgment that created a continuing and modifiable duty to pay, and that cannot be subject to a laches defense.
Lynch v. Lynch, 5 Mass. App. Ct. 167 (1977): The Appeals Court held that the fact that the Husband went above and beyond the requirements of the divorce judgment, does not obviate necessity of reviewing the Trial Court Judge's failure to award alimony for the Ex-wife.
Mansur v. Clark, 25 Mass. App. Ct. 618 (1988): A Probate Court judge correctly dismissed a wife's complaint for contempt alleging that her former husband had failed to meet his alimony obligation, where the husband's obligation to pay alimony arose exclusively from the parties' separation agreement and was not the subject of a court order. The Probate Court judge correctly dismissed a husband's complaint seeking modification of his alimony obligation where, in the absence of any court order relative to alimony, the husband's effort to achieve modification was directed to the alimony obligation imposed by the parties' separation agreement itself.
O'Brien v. O'Brien, 416 Mass. 477 (1993): The Supreme Judicial Court declared that a spouse who is dependent on public assistance is entitled to spousal support even after she surrendered her rights to future support for the purpose of removing her off public assistance. A judge may order support pursuant to statutory authority because to enforce the separation agreement would impose support obligations on taxpayers. The result is that one spouse may not cast off by agreement a duty to support the other spouse when the other spouse is or becomes a public charge.
O'Donnell v. O'Donnell, 22 Mass. App. Ct. 936 ( ):
Pagar v. Pagar, 9 Mass. App. Ct. 1 (1980): The wife appealed the Probate and Family Court orders to modify the husband's weekly alimony and child support obligation and reduce the arrearage amount. The Appeals Court reversed the orders, reasoning that the husband did not meet his burden of showing changed circumstances because he did not comply with Rule 401 in completing his financial statement. The court remanded as to the modification and contempt.
Parrish v. Parrish, 30 Mass. App. Ct. 78 (1991): In the circumstances of this court's remand of a divorce action for a new trial on the issue of a change in the support obligation owed by the husband, the judgment dismissing the wife's counterclaim was also reversed and the question of the payment of additional attorney's fees to the wife was also remanded for reconsideration. The judge properly dismissed a complaint for contempt seeking to compel payment for certain expenses that were not part of the support obligation ordered by the court.
Pierce v. Pierce, 455 Mass. 285 (2009): Review of the evolution of the law of alimony, which is wholly statutory, and discussion of the factors that a judge must take into consideration in making an award of alimony (or a modification of an award) and the balance that a judge must strike when financial resources are inadequate to maintain the marital standard of living.
Richman v. Richman, 355 Mass. 395 (1957): The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decree of divorce nisi, which included an award of alimony to the wife and an order that the husband pay her $10,000 forthwith. The husband appealed the order to pay $10,000. The court reasoned that the amount of alimony to a wife is based on the judge's discretion after considering all the facts, including the husband's financial worth, the wife's needs, and the parties' station in life and mode of living. Based on the evidence, the court found that the Probate Court judge's findings and order were not reversible because they were not plainly wrong.
Rosenberg v. Rosenberg, 33 Mass. App. Ct. 903 (1992): In high asset case, involving a long term marriage, the wife received $4,000,000 in cash and other assets equivalent to approximately 30 percent of a marital estate worth $22,000,000. The court approved a judgment awarding $2000 per week alimony in addition to this property settlement.
Rosenblatt v. Kazlow-Rosenblatt, 39 Mass. App. Ct. 297 (1995): The Appeals Court held that even though the Wife signed the antenuptial agreement the night before they were to leave for their wedding and the signature was not initially notarized, it was valid as to property division.
Sampson v. Sampson, 62 Mass. App. Ct. 366 (2004): The alimony award was vacated and the issue of property division was remanded for reconsideration because the probate judge's order left the wife in "economically strained circumstances while [the husband was] guaranteed continued enjoyment of the secure, comfortable marital lifestyle."
Schillander v. Schillander, 307 Mass. 96 (1940): Petition to modify support for wife and child was dismissed because Husband and Wife had an agreement independent of decree of alimony in divorce suit and in absence of statutory authority the court cannot change the support amount based on the Husband's petition because of changed conditions.
Spiliotis v. Campbell, 13 Mass. App. Ct. 189 (1982):
T.E. v. A.O, 82 Mass. App. Ct. 586 (2012): Both parties appealed the Probate and Family Court's order that the husband pay the wife $2,100 per month for one year and $29,500 as his contribution to the marital debt and diminished assets. The Appeals Court affirmed the alimony order, reasoning the trial judge did not abuse her discretion in considering the wife's emotional health issues, the trial judge aimed to provide for the wife's "realistic" needs, and the brevity of the marriage did not preclude an award of alimony. The Appeals Court also affirmed the property division, reasoning that the court may assign one party all or part of the estate of the other, and the trial judge considered all the equitable factors in General Laws c. 208, §34.
Thompson vs. Thompson, 11 Mass. App. Ct. 911 (1981):
Thomsen v. Thomsen, 12 Mass. App. Ct. 1010 (1981): Ex-husband appealed from modification judgment that increased his alimony obligation to his ex-wife. The appeals court upheld the trial courts order because the court found that the ex-husband had been living an extravagant life while the ex-wife had not been able to due to her poor financial situation.
Vakil v. Vakil, 450 Mass. 411 (2008): Parties had an antenuptial agreement that provided, "Nothing herein shall be construed as to prevent the [wife] from seeking an award of periodic alimony at the time of a divorce if she is then eligible for such an award of alimony" and also states that "[the wife] shall not at any time make any claim or demand upon the [husband] in any manner or upon any condition if she contests directly or indirectly the granting of a divorce to the [husband]." Wife appeals trial court's decision to waive alimony because during the trial, the judge considered the wife's cross-examination regarding the husband's account of the irretrievable breakdown to be a contest to the divorce, thus waiving her eligibility to alimony. The wife then sought to amend her answer, seeking to withdraw her request that the divorce complaint be dismissed. The Appeals Court found that the alimony waiver provision was triggered because of the wife contesting the granting of a divorce both in her answer and in her cross-examination and that the motion to amend is denied because nine months had passed since wife filed her answer, and four months had passed since the pretrial conference. The SJC found this as an abuse of discretion because the cross-examination did not constitute an opposition to the granting of a divorce, but rather that the husband had physically abused the wife. Further the SJC found that delay alone is generally not sufficient reason to deny a motion to amend. This was reversed and remanded to include consideration of enforcement of the antenuptial agreement.
Vedensky vs. Vedensky, 86 Mass. App. Ct. 768 (2014):
Watts vs. Watts, 314 Mass. 129 (1943):
Wooters v. Wooters, 42 Mass. App. Ct. 929 (1997): Husband appeals Trial Courts order of alimony and Appeals Court held that alimony could be awarded based on percentage of Husband's income and the Husband was required to maintain life insurance and medical insurance even after the wife remarried.
Yousif v. Yousif, 61 Mass. 411 (2008): Husband appeals a judgment entered by the Probate Court dismissing the wife's equity complaint. Appeals Court dismisses husband's complaint, stating that the evidence in the divorce action was sufficient to support a finding that the trust the husband created, as to which he was trustee and which named his sister and children as beneficiaries, was created in violation of fiduciary duty owed to wife and thus was void. There was evidence that husband had control and dominion over wife, that he obtained wife's signature on trust papers that she believed gave her an interest in land which had been purchased with marital funds, and that husband historically used bank accounts in his sister's name as a repository for cash which he controlled.
Zaleski v. Zaleski, Docket: SJC-11391 (2014):