Domestic relationships – alimony – fixed term

If a divorce judgment has been challenged on appeal, the maintenance claim has exceeded the statutory time limit and the judgment must be set aside insofar as it relates to the length of maintenance.

“Roger J. Renaud, the husband, is appealing a divorce judgment entered by a Probate and Family Court Judge awarding alimony, dividing the marital estate and ordering the husband to pay the attorney’s fees of the wife, Rhonda L., to pay. Renaud. On appeal, the husband claims that the alimony payment was excessive and that the award of attorney’s fees was unreasonable. He also alleges that the judge wrongly overlooked the wife’s residence and husband’s credit card debt when dividing the marital property. We reverse the amended judgment to the extent that it relates to the duration of the alimony payment and are remitting the case for recalculation on that issue in accordance with this memorandum and order. Otherwise we agree. …

“The husband alleges that the alimony claim exceeded the legal duration of general alimony. Do we agree. … Here the judge determined that the length of the marriage was 110 months, or nine years and two months. Since the marriage lasted more than five years and less than ten years, the deed required alimony for “no longer than.” [sixty percent] the number of months of marriage.’ … Sixty percent here was sixty-six months. The judge ordered the husband to pay child support from November 26, 2021 to April 26, 2028, for a period of seventy-seven months. The maintenance order thus exceeded the time limit by eleven months.

“The wife alleges that the judge duly extended the length of the alimony because the parties began living together in August 2007, more than three years before their marriage. …

“Here the judge’s findings merely stated that the parties’ marriage lasted 110 months and that the alimony would ‘terminate in accordance with the law.’ The judge made no written finding that the parties cohabited or were in an economic partnership prior to the marriage. … And the judge did not state in writing that a deviation from the statutory limitation was necessary. GLc 208, §49(b). Without the necessary written findings to support a variance, the duration of the alimony payment was beyond the judge’s discretion. … The alimony must end sixty-six months from November 26, 2021, unless changed in the future. …

“We reverse subsection e of paragraph 3 of the revised judgment and dismiss the case for the limited purpose of recalculating the length of child support in accordance with this memorandum and order. For the rest, the corrected judgment is confirmed.”

Renaud v. Renaud (Lawyers Weekly No. 81-026-23) (9 pages) (Ref. No. 22-P-370) (March 31, 2023).

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