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Alimony Duration – What Happens if Parties Marry Twice?

Alimony Duration – What Happens if Parties Marry Twice?

Posted on June 21st, 2016

The Recent Case of Marriage of Kareores Provides Direction for Family Court Judges

In the 2016 case ELLEN DUFF-KAREORES vs. CHRISTOPHER KAREORES, the Supreme Judicial Court just published its holding that a family court judge may consider a parties’ first marriage, any cohabitation period between the first and second marriage, and the duration of the second marriage when considering the durational length of alimony when parties marry, divorce, and then remarry.

THE FACTS:

-Ellen and Christopher married in 1995 had two children during the marriage (1997, 2001).
-During the marriage Ellen stopped working full-time and worked part-time to raise the children at home.
-In May 2004 the parties had a divorce agreement that included alimony in the amount of $7,600 a month, child support, and the cost of the children’s education.
-The parties lived apart from the divorce in May 2004 until May 2007 when Christopher moved back into the marital home and they lived in the “public eye” and acted as husband and wife.
-The parties remarried in December 2012, then six weeks after Ellen asked Christopher to move out and he did, she filed for divorce in June 2013.
-The Family Court trial judge calculated their divorce by using the starting point of the first marriage (1995) to the point of serving Christopher with the second divorce (18 years). The judge concluded that the parties lived as they did when they were married with Christopher primarily being the breadwinner and Ellen taking care of the children at home during the time they lived apart.
-Christopher objected, arguing that the first marriage (resulting in a divorce judgment) should not be considered as part of the duration of the total relationship.

ISSUE:

-Whether a judge in a divorce proceeding can include a period between a first divorce and when the parties cohabitate in a home in calculating the length of marriage to determine alimony payments for a second divorce under rule M.G.L. c. 208 § 48.

HOLDING:

-The judge can include the length of the first marriage, the time the cohabitated, and the length of the second marriage, but cannot include time when the parties lived apart and only made alimony payments. The correct way to calculate the alimony payment would be calculated by adding together the period of the first marriage, the period of cohabitation, and the period of the second marriage.

WHAT DOES THIS HOLDING MEAN?

In this interesting case, the Supreme Judicial Court has extended the durational limit for the payment of alimony in situations where parties marry twice, to include the entire time the parties are either married or just living together.  In Kareores, the decision basically provides Ellen with a “double-dip” as she received the benefit of the first divorce judgment and then for the second marriage (which lasted only six months!), she was able to get alimony extended for many more years.  The decision punishes Christopher for remarrying Ellen for a period of six months.  Perhaps the courts disliked Christopher and felt sympathy for Ellen as she had some significant health problems, so the result in this case may be the correct resolution for this specific fact pattern.  However, the result provides a disincentive and penalty for parties to remarry, even though minor children may be involved.  If there are children involved, this holding will only hurt them if parties are considering reconciliation following a divorce, because the higher earning parent will be much less willing to remarry.

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