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Chin v. Merriot (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-012-15)

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.  If you find a typographical error or other formal error, please notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Judicial Court, John Adams Courthouse, 1 Pemberton Square, Suite 2500, Boston, MA, 02108-1750; (617) 557-1030; SJCReporter@sjc.state.ma.us   SJC-11715   CHESTER CHIN  vs.  EDITH E. MERRIOT.[1]       Franklin.     October 6, 2014. – January 30, 2015.   Present:  Gants, C.J., Spina, Cordy, Botsford, Duffly, Lenk, & Hines, JJ.     Divorce and Separation, Alimony, Modification of judgment, Separation agreement.  Statute, Retroactive application.       Complaint for divorce filed in the Franklin Division of the Probate and Family Court Department on January 11, 2011.   A complaint for modification, filed on March 11, 2013, was heard by Beth A. Crawford, J.   The Supreme Judicial Court granted an application for direct appellate review.     William Sanford Durland, III, for Chester Chin. Leslie H. Powers for Edith E. Merriot. The following submitted briefs amicus curiae: Rachel B. Biscardi for Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts. Richard M. Novitch, Maureen McBrien, & Charles P. Kindregan, pro se. David H. Lee & Holly A. Hinte, pro se.     DUFFLY, J.  After twelve years of marriage, Chester Chin and Edith E. Merriot were divorced by a judgment of divorce nisi in August, 2011.  At the time of the divorce, Chin was sixty-seven years old and Merriot was sixty-nine.  Pursuant to a merged provision of the parties’ separation agreement, Chin was obligated to pay alimony to Merriot in the amount of $ 650 per month until “the death of either party or the wife’s remarriage.” In March, 2013, Chin filed an amended complaint for modification in the Probate and Family Court in which he sought to terminate his alimony obligation.  To support his claim for relief, Chin asserted as “changed circumstances” that he had attained the age of sixty-eight, “full retirement age” as defined by G. L. c. 208, § 48.  He argued that, pursuant to G. L. c. 208, § 49 (f) (retirement provision), “general term alimony orders shall terminate upon the payor attaining the full retirement age.”  Chin thereafter filed an amended complaint asserting, as a further change in circumstances, that Merriot had “been cohabiting with another person . . . and maintaining a common household” for more than three months; cohabitation alone is a basis for termination of alimony under G. L. c. 208, § 49 (d) (cohabitation provision). The retirement and cohabitation provisions on which Chin relies were enacted as part of the Alimony Reform Act of 2011, St. 2011, c. 124 (alimony reform act or act).  The act was made effective as of March 1, […]

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Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - January 30, 2015 at 5:16 pm

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