Salvucci Harris, LLC Blog
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The End of Lifetime Alimony

Today Governor Patrick signed the Alimony Reform Act into law. The new law, which will take effect in March of 2012, places much-needed duration limits upon alimony awards in Massachusetts. If you are currently paying or receiving an alimony award, the new law may have an impact on your case. Contact a local family law attorney to see how the new law may help you.

UPDATE: The Alimony Reform Act of 2011

The bill hit Governor Patrick's desk today and now awaits his signature. He has 10 days to act on the bill.

What To Expect From Your Attorney: The Adviser vs. The Advocate

I often notice during my initial meetings with clients that they expect me to be a "yes (wo)man."

Litigation: It is an adversarial process, but we do not have to be adversaries.

Although our court system is based upon an adversarial process, pitting one side against the other, it is important for litigants and attorneys alike to remind themselves that we do not have to become adversaries. For attorneys, it is possible to zealously advocate for our clients while also behaving in a professional and ethical manner in our interactions with the opposing party. Litigants, whether it is a divorcing couple or two business owners fighting over a bill, can still act civilly...

The Passage of the Alimony Reform Act of 2011

After being unanimously passed by the House on July 20, 2011, the much awaitedAlimony Reform Act of 2011 wasunanimously passed by the Senate today, July 28, 2011. The bill now awaits Governor Patrick's signature before it becomes effective. It is expected that the new law will take effect in March of 2012. If you are currently paying or receiving an alimony award, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney to see how this new law may impact you.

The Alimony Reform Act of 2011 - One Step Closer to Alimony Reform in Massachusetts.

When I first wrote about the potential for alimony reform in Massachusetts, it seemed as though we were about to see some changes to our antiquated alimony laws. That was more than a year ago (http://www.bostonherald.com/business/womens/general/view.bg?articleid=1235550) and, subsequently, pending legislation was stalledby intense battles over the nature of what the reform should be between activists, legislators and family law attorneys.With the filing of a new bill,the Alimony Reform Act of...

If the police pull you over on suspicion of drunk driving, do you have to take a breathalyzer or perform field sobriety tests?

The short answer is no, you are not required to take a breathalyzer test or perform field sobriety tests if you are pulled over by the police on suspicion of drunk driving. The only thing that you must do is give the officer your license and registration when asked. Your refusal to perform field sobriety tests or to take a breathalyzer test cannot be used as evidence against you during your trial, but there are otherconsequences if you refuse to perform these tests. Some factors to think...

What to do when your company gets sued.

In these challenging economic times, businesses are facing more legalproblems than ever. In order to protect your business and its assets, it is important that you take immediate and proper action when served with a summons and complaint. Delaying or ignoring the problem will wind up being costly and detrimental to your business in the long run. Here are a few tips on steps to takeafter you have been served with a lawsuit.

The End of Lifetime Alimony

Today Governor Patrick signed the Alimony Reform Act into law.  The new law, which will take effect in March of 2012, places much-needed duration limits upon alimony awards in Massachusetts.  If you are currently paying or receiving an alimony award, the new law may have an impact on your case.  Contact a local family law attorney to see how the new law may help you.

UPDATE: The Alimony Reform Act of 2011

The bill hit Governor Patrick's desk today and now awaits his signature.  He has 10 days to act on the bill.

What To Expect From Your Attorney: The Adviser vs. The Advocate

I often notice during my initial meetings with clients that they expect me to be a "yes (wo)man."

When they tell me their story and ask me if they have a good case, they want me to tell them: "Yes!"

When they ask if a judge or jury will award them the significant financial award that they want, they want me to tell them: "Of course, you may even get more than that because the other person is such a bad guy!"

When they tell me how their spouse cheated with their best friend, they want me to tell them: "He will never see the kids again!"

If your attorney is saying yes to these questions, without more, you should go out and hire a new attorney because they are doing you a disservice by not being both your adviser and your advocate.  I have yet to meet a client who is 100% right, 100% of the time.  Moreover, there is risk involved in every case whether it is a civil, criminal or family law matter.  After hearing the facts of your case, your attorney should advise you about what the law is, how it should be applied in your case and what the potential ranges of outcome are.  Attorneys are not psychic and no one can predict what will happen in your case with 100% certainty.  You should expect that your attorney will tell you about the strengths of your case as well as the weaknesses.  The same goes for the other side's case - your attorney should talk to you about the strengths and weaknesses of their arguments. 

When you meet with your attorney one-on-one, the communication is confidential.  This is the time when you want to hear these things.  It does not mean that your attorney does not believe in you or won't fight for you in court.  You don't want the first time that you realize that there is a weakness in your case to be when you are testifying before a judge or jury.  Talking about your case realistically with your attorney will allow you to put together the best legal strategy that you can.  Once you have done this, and you walk into the courtroom, that is when your attorney should be your advocate.

Litigation: It is an adversarial process, but we do not have to be adversaries.

Although our court system is based upon an adversarial process, pitting one side against the other, it is important for litigants and attorneys alike to remind themselves that we do not have to become adversaries.  For attorneys, it is possible to zealously advocate for our clients while also behaving in a professional and ethical manner in our interactions with the opposing party.  Litigants, whether it is a divorcing couple or two business owners fighting over a bill, can still act civilly (and even kindly) towards one another without compromising the strength of their legal positions.  In fact, I believe that the expression "kill them with kindness" holds some truth.  I am writing this post today because at times I believe we can all use this reminder to keep us from getting caught up in the heat of the moment.  I offer these words of advice, which I will continue to work to follow myself, to lawyers and litigators:

  • Say "hello" or maybe even "how are you" when you see or speak to the other party.

  • Say "please" when you want something.

  • Say "thank you" when you get it.

If kindergartners can do it so can we, right?

The Passage of the Alimony Reform Act of 2011

After being unanimously passed by the House on July 20, 2011, the much awaited Alimony Reform Act of 2011 was unanimously passed by the Senate today, July 28, 2011.  The bill now awaits Governor Patrick's signature before it becomes effective.  It is expected that the new law will take effect in March of 2012.  If you are currently paying or receiving an alimony award, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney to see how this new law may impact you.

The Alimony Reform Act of 2011 - One Step Closer to Alimony Reform in Massachusetts.

When I first wrote about the potential for alimony reform in Massachusetts, it seemed as though we were about to see some changes to our antiquated alimony laws.  That was more than a year ago (http://www.bostonherald.com/business/womens/general/view.bg?articleid=1235550) and, subsequently, pending legislation was stalled by intense battles over the nature of what the reform should be between activists, legislators and family law attorneys.  With the filing of a new bill, the Alimony Reform Act of 2011, it now appears that we are finally about to see some real changes to our outdated and unfair alimony laws.  This bill has garnered support from two groups who were previously adversaries in this debate - the Women's Bar Association and Massachusetts Alimony Reform - making it far more likely that change will finally come to fruition.  If you are thinking about getting a divorce, or are currently subject to an alimony order, pay close attention to this proposed bill.

The Current State of Alimony in Massachusetts.  Unlike most of our neighboring states who award durational alimony (alimony paid for a set period of time), under current Massachusetts law, support awards are typically given for life, regardless of the age of the recipient or the payor.  This means that the payor must continue paying alimony to his or her former spouse even after retirement and the onset of a fixed income.  This may mean that a payor winds up paying alimony to a former spouse for significantly longer than they were ever even married to them.  For example, you could be married at 22 yrs old, divorced at 27 yrs old, and ordered to pay alimony to your former spouse for the rest of your life.  Additionally, the current law also allows the Court to look at a payor's second spouse's income in determining their ability to pay alimony to the previous spouse.  For many in the family law profession, the Supreme Judicial Court's decision in Pierce v. Pierce highlighted these deficiencies in our current alimony laws.  The text of the decision can be found at http://www.socialaw.com/slip.htm?cid=19511&sid=120

The Alimony Reform Act of 2011.  This proposed legislation would dramatically change alimony laws in Massachusetts while also giving judges greater discretion to evaluate the facts and circumstances of each marriage in setting an alimony award.  The law provides for 4 different types of alimony; general term, rehabilitative, reimbursement and transitional alimony.  General term alimony awards will be closely linked to the duration of the marriage and will provide a sense of equity that is lacking in our current laws.  For instance, if the marriage is less than five years long, the alimony award shall be for no greater than one-half of the months that the marriage lasted.  The percentage of the period of the marriage length that can be awarded as durational alimony increases based upon the length of the marriage.  The proposed law further provides that these orders shall terminate when the payor reaches full retirement age under 42 U.S.C. 416 unless the Courts orders otherwise for good cause shown, thereby ending the reign of lifetime alimony in Massachusetts.  Another significant change is that the Court can no longer look to the payor's second spouse's income in determining the payor's ability to pay alimony to the first spouse.

Impact on Current Alimony Awards.  If you are already the payor or recipient of an alimony award, you may be wondering what impact the Alimony Reform Act of 2011 will have on you if it is passed.  In general, the provisions of the new law are to apply prospectively, to new cases.  However, you may have a basis to seek a modification of your current order, if the duration (not the amount) of your current alimony award is greater than the duration would be under the proposed new law.  In that case, you have the right to go to Court and seek a modification of your order to bring it in line with the duration limits imposed by the Alimony Reform Act of 2011.  The time frames for bringing such a modification action vary depending upon the length of your marriage, therefore, it is important that you consult with an experienced family law attorney if you wish to seek a modification when the law is passed.

If the police pull you over on suspicion of drunk driving, do you have to take a breathalyzer or perform field sobriety tests?

The short answer is no, you are not required to take a breathalyzer test or perform field sobriety tests if you are pulled over by the police on suspicion of drunk driving.  The only thing that you must do is give the officer your license and registration when asked.  Your refusal to perform field sobriety tests or to take a breathalyzer test cannot be used as evidence against you during your trial, but there are other consequences if you refuse to perform these tests.  Some factors to think about in deciding whether or not to take these tests are discussed below.

Field Sobriety Tests:  These tests can vary depending upon the officer who gives them to you, but can include: the nine step walk and turn, one-legged stand, reciting the alphabet, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test.  These tests can be difficult to perform even under the best of circumstances.  Think about factors other than alcohol that may impair your ability to successfully perform these tests.  For instance, wearing high heels, being overweight, having a bad back, fatigue, poor weather and road conditions can all lead to difficulty in performing these tests.  I have seen police officers fail these tests when asked to demonstrate them, so please do not underestimate their difficulty.  If you elect not to perform field sobriety tests, you will most likely be arrested for OUI ("Operating Under the Influence"), but the case against you will be more difficult for the prosecution to prove in Court because you have given them less evidence to use.

Breathalyzer Tests:  Under Melanie's Law you will lose your license for 180 days for refusing to take a breathalyzer (unless you have a prior conviction(s) for OUI, or are under the age of 21 which will lead to a greater time period for the loss of license).  If you do take the breathalyzer and blow a .08 or higher, you will also lose your license (until the disposition of the case, but not greater than 30 days) and the prosecution can introduce the breathalyzer results as per-se evidence of your impairment while operating your car.  (A conviction will lead to further loss of license.)

The decision to take or refuse these tests is yours, make it wisely.  Think about the consequences of taking these tests and remember that if you are charged with OUI, the prosecution does not have to prove that you were "drunk", just that your ability to drive the car was impaired by alcohol.  Even if you do not feel that you are "drunk," you may fail either or both of these types of tests if you have been drinking.

What to do when your company gets sued.

In these challenging economic times, businesses are facing more legal problems than ever.  In order to protect your business and its assets, it is important that you take immediate and proper action when served with a summons and complaint.  Delaying or ignoring the problem will wind up being costly and detrimental to your business in the long run.  Here are a few tips on steps to take after you have been served with a lawsuit.

Step 1:  Read the summons and complaint carefully. The time frames for when your response is due to the Court vary depending on the type of case it is and the Court where the case is pending.  The summons will tell you how you need to respond and when your response is due.

Step 2:  Contact your insurer(s) immediately. While not all cases are covered by the various insurance policies that your company may have, many will be.  Find out what your insurance carrier's notification requirements are and be sure to follow them.  If you don't know, sending a letter via certified mail is always a safe bet.  If you are not sure whether or not the lawsuit is covered by your insurance, send a notice of claim to the carrier to preserve your rights.

Step 3:  Contact an attorney immediately.  Your insurance company may provide you with an attorney, but if it does not you should hire one on your own.  You need to be sure that you contact an attorney early enough in the process to give the attorney adequate time to respond to the summons and complaint within the required filing deadline.  If you do not respond to the summons and complaint in a timely manner, a default judgment could be entered against you.  This means that you will have been found responsible for the case without having an opportunity to present your side of things.

Step 4: Stop talking about the case. Unless you are talking to your attorney, chances are that the conversation you are having about the case is potentially admissible in Court.  Ranting emails to co-workers about a former employee's lawsuit can hurt you later on in the litigation.  The best practice is not to speak with anyone about the case except for your attorney or at your attorney's direction.

Step 5:  Preserve any and all evidence. You have an obligation to preserve any and all evidence related to the lawsuit.  This includes email messages, documents, pictures, contracts, calendars, voicemail messages, letters, etc.  This includes any evidence that may be harmful to your case - the repercussions will be worse if it comes out later that you concealed or destroyed evidence.

Step 6: Evaluate your case. Meet with your attorney early on to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your case, potential outcomes and expected costs.  The vast majority of lawsuits end in a settlement prior to trial.  Discuss settlement and alternative dispute resolution options with your attorney early as it may save you time, money and the stress of protracted litigation.

Step 7:  Remain Calm. Lawsuits can be stressful, but it is important that you keep a level head and have reasonable expectations about the case.  Lawsuits take time, sometimes years, so don't expect that the matter will be resolved in a few weeks.  Establish a relationship with an attorney that you trust and let the attorney do the worrying for you while you focus your energy on growing your business.