It’s one thing to receive a judgment that you simply don’t like. More often than not, when I disagree with the court’s decision, I can understand the judge’s reasoning. If the judge did her job correctly, there usually is no reason to escalate to the appeals court. But sometimes the judge simply made a mistake, or “abused discretion.” An abuse of discretion can be found most commonly where the law prescribes certain things that the court must do in order to rule a certain way. In this case, both the statute (the Alimony Reform Act of 2011) and the case law (thus far, limited to George v. George, 476 Mass. 65 (2016) both stated fairly precisely the statutory factors which the judge needed to apply, and the legal standard (“in the interests of justice”) that the judge’s finding’s needed to satisfy.
Here, the question at trial was whether my client’s alimony obligation should terminate after a certain period of time, or if it was “in the interests of justice” that he keep paying. We also had a secondary question whether his income even left him able to pay alimony, considering that he had suffered a loss of income and also had no help paying the parties’ daughter’s college tuition. The judge seems to have tried to get around the question of his ability to pay by saying that neither parent had to support their 19 year-old daughter (yes, I thought this was horrifying), but she also failed to follow the statutory scheme or even to refer to the statute in her findings.
Yes, it’s great that the appeals court threw out the judgment, but in the interim my client has had to liquidate assets to pay nearly $20,000 in alimony, and, let’s face it, appeals aren’t cheap. But a win is a win.