Two weeks ago, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a decision in a case which addressed the question of whether and under what circumstances the Alimony Reform Act (M.G.L. ch. 208 §§48-55), permits a judge to award alimony based on a percentage of the paying spouse’s income. Given the importance of the issue, Sandy Durland and Glenn Schley, prepared and filed an amici curiae brief (literally, a “friend of the court” brief), where they offered their analysis on the issue.
In their brief, Sandy and Glenn argued that alimony awards must be narrowly tailored to the specific financial circumstances of the parties involved. Notwithstanding the statutory overhaul under the Alimony Reform Act, they argued that the basic tenets of alimony awards did not change and that any award of alimony must still be based upon a determination of the specific needs of the recipient spouse and the income and ability of the payor spouse to meet those needs at the time of the award. But, when there are certain narrow or “special circumstances,” where a traditional alimony payment will not appropriately address the specific needs and financial circumstances of the parties, the Reform Act would permit alimony to be based solely on a percentage of the payor spouse’s income.
On September 25, 2017, in Young vs. Young, the S.J.C. largely agreed with the approach suggested by Sandy and Glenn and, in a decision that continues to define alimony awards under the Alimony Reform Act, ruled that the husband (a senior executive at Fidelity Investments) will not have to pay 33% of his future income to his former wife. The S.J.C. noted that there may be special circumstances, such as where the payor spouse’s income is highly variable year-to-year and affects the spouse’s ability to pay, where an alimony award based on a percentage of the payor’s spouse’s income would be appropriate, so long as the percentage-based formula does not exceed the needs and marital lifestyle of the recipient spouse.
Here is a link to the case decision: http://law.justia.com/…/m…/supreme-court/2017/sjc-12240.html