Legal News: Domestic Relations: Divorce - Alimony - Student loans

Lawyer's Weekly Newspaper Dated July 6, 2020: 

This Week;s Decisions

Where a plaintiff wife has challenged a divorce judgment, so much of the judgment as pertains to alimony and student loans shoud be vacated and a remand ordered for the judge to make further findings on and reconsider (1) the range and term of alimony, taking into account the extent of the wife's financial dependence on the boyfriend and whether reduction rather than suspension of the alimony award is warranted, and (2) the equitable allocation of the wife's potential liability for the children's student loans.

"The judge ordered that no alimony be paid by either party presently and that the husband maintain his present health insurance for the wife until she is no longer eligible for coverage. The wife claims the judge abused her discretion in determining that the wife and her boyfriend constituted a common household under G.L.c. 208, S49, such that the judege may not award alimony. We disagree. ...

"... What is unclear, however, is what the amount and term of the alimony award being suspended was, and whether the award to the wife of more than 50 percent of the marital estate reflected a recognition that no alimony would be paid at this time.

...Also unclear is whether the judge considered, as an alternative to suspending the award, merely reducing it - as S49(d) also authorizes - based on what at least some evidence suggested was the limited extent of the wife's financial dependence on her boyfriend. On remand, this discretionary alternative should also be considered. ...A remand is necessary to determine the range and term of the alimony that would be paid but for the wife's sharing a common household with her boyfriend, and to consider whether alimony should be reduced, rather than suspended, while the common household exists. ...

"The wife also argues that, to the extent she is liable for repayment of the student loans of two of the parties' children, it was an abuse of discretion not to make an equitable allocation of a portion of that liability to the husband. The wife's testimony was, as her brief acknowledges, unclear as to whether she is the cosigner or the primary borrower on the loans at issue. Also unclear is the extent to which the paternal grandmother cosigned the children's student loans, and how the amount of her potential liability compares with that of the wife. The judge's decision not to allocate any of the wife's potential liability to the husband was based on the wife's testimony that she is currently making no student loan payments and that one (although not both) of the children intended to repay his loans himself. The judge also noted the paternal grandmother's potential liability. As the matter must be remanded in any event, and because a further order as to alimony might cause the judge to reconsider the division of the parties' liabilities as well as their assets, the student loan issue should also be addressed.