modification Archives - Page 2 of 2 - Cordell & Cordell

Mass. House to tackle alimony reform

The Massachusetts House of Representatives has given initial approval of legislation that would overhaul the state’s alimony system, according to the State House News Service.

Rep. Paul Donato, who presided over the House session in question, said the government body would likely hold a formal session next week to debate the proposed changes in the bill. Under the legislation, state law would lay out specific guidelines on the levels and duration of alimony payments to former spouses, the news service reports.

The bill, which currently has 133 co-sponsors from both parties, would establish a timeline for alimony payments, basing them on the duration of the marriage. For instance, in the case of a divorcing couple married for five years or less, the person receiving alimony would get payment for half the number of months of the union. For a 10- to 15-year marriage, the source reports judges would award payment for between 60 to 70 percent of the number of months a couple was married. It would be up to a judge’s discretion to determine how much alimony is due for a marriage surpassing 20 years.

There were 21,232 divorce filings in Massachusetts in 2009, according to Massachusetts Alimony Reform, resulting in 16,289 cases of alimony modification. The website stated that alimony modifications accounted for almost 30 percent of all Massachusetts Family and Probate Court cases in 2008.

Madoff victim seeks modification of divorce

The New York Supreme Court is currently considering a divorce case that could have wide-reaching implications for people ending their marriages in the Empire State.

Steven Simkin and Laura Blank divorced in 2006 and when their assets were split, Simkin put part of his share in funds managed by convicted Ponzi-schemer Bernie Madoff, while his wife received her share in cash, according to the New York Times.

After the Madoff scheme came to light in 2008, Simkin filed a lawsuit seeking modification to the divorce. Specifically, he wanted to alter the settlement, arguing that he should receive money from Blank to make up for his losses.

According to the news source, Simkin’s suit relies on the doctrine of “mutual mistake.” The news source reports that under the doctrine, contracts can be voided if both parties are incorrect about a vital part of the agreement. Simkin’s divorce attorney said that both parties mistakenly believed that they had an investment account with Madoff, when, in fact, the account was worthless.

Some legal experts say that the ruling in this case could have wide-reaching effects but law professor Lawrence Cunningham told CBS New York that he expects the court to make a narrow ruling in the case.

Changes to help inmates pay child support

A number of states have begun to implement changes designed to help fathers in prison obtain child support modification so that they will not fall behind on their payments.

The Associated Press reports some states, including Texas and Massachusetts, allow inmates who are fathers to modify their child support so they are only paying between $20 and $80 per month. In addition, Connecticut and a number of other states have rules that allow judges to stop child support payments completely when the payer has no source of income.

Charisse Hutton, Connecticut’s director of support enforcement services, said that such rules typically lead to more fathers actually making child support payments.

“I want that order to be fair, so there is a better chance that person can and will pay,” she told the news source.

However, some states, such as Tennessee, consider jail “voluntary unemployment” and allow fathers to accumulate tens of thousands of dollars in back child support, something that advocates say hurts the chances of it ever being paid.

In 2007, there was nearly $25 billion collected in child support payments around the country, according to the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement.

Athletes seek alimony child support modification

Many athletes in the National Football League and the National Basketball Association may seek child support modification if their respective leagues experience a work stoppage.

Bloomberg News reports that many NFL and NBA players are trying to have their child support and alimony payments modified in the case that they see their incomes lowered.

Frank Brickowski, a former NBA player who is a regional director with the league’s Players Association, said that child support and alimony are issues that affect about 80 percent of the men in the league. Dealing with such issues during a potential work stoppage was covered in a lockout survival guide given to players, according to the news source.

Joseph Cordell, a prominent divorce attorney, said that men who see their incomes drop would need to file for child support and alimony modification.

“Men in the NFL are in a risky industry, which makes it difficult to afford their child support or alimony payments,” Cordell said. “To ensure they don’t fall behind they have to file for a modification.”

The NFL will resume talks with its players regarding the lockout on June 7, according to BusinessWeek.