Recently, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court interpreted the alimony statute in the case of Zaleski v. Zaleski. In Zaleski, the parties were married in 1994 and had two children before the wife filed for divorce in 2010. During the marriage, the wife was employed outside the home until 2008 when she lost her job. Prior to losing her job, the wife earned approximately $170,000.00 per year. After losing her job, the wife pursued her interest in interior design and took classes in this pursuit prior to the divorce.
After a trial in the Essex Probate and Family Court, the trial judge ordered that rehabilitative rather than general alimony was warranted, finding that the wife could be employed within five years with reasonable effort. At the end of five years, the court ordered that the parties will review each others respective financial circumstances and the need for continued alimony. The wife appealed the decision, claiming that there is no specific event upon which termination was based and the judge needed to identify a specific event in the future in order to order rehabilitative alimony.
In upholding the trial court’s award of rehabilitative alimony, the Supreme Judicial Court opined “rehabilitative alimony is the appropriate form of alimony if a recipient spouse is expected to become economically self-sufficient by a predicted time. Thus, the [alimony statute] permits a judge to determine that rehabilitative alimony based on expected employment is appropriate where there is sufficient evidence for a judge to find, with a reasonable degree of certainty, that the recipient spouse can obtain employment through reasonable efforts, and thereby can gain economic self-sufficiency, in the near future.” Therefore, the absence of a specific job available at the time of trial, does not preclude the trial judge from issuing a rehabilitative alimony award.
The Supreme Judicial Court noted that the trial court found that the wife was an educated professional who was employed through most of the marriage and earned significant income and that she had highly transferable skills. Based on these findings, the trial court was appropriate in awarding rehabilitative alimony.
If you have any questions regarding alimony, in Massachusetts or New Hampshire, please do not hesitate to contact an attorney at Hamblett & Kerrigan to discuss. The attorneys at Hamblett & Kerrigan have experience in handling such situations. Let Hamblett & Kerrigan use their experience to your advantage.
Kevin P. Rauseo is a former director at Hamblett & Kerrigan P.A. and has since been appointed as a Justice for the New Hampshire Circuit Court. Please feel free to contact another attorney at Hamblett & Kerrigan to discuss your legal issues.