Hassey v. Hassey, 85 Mass. App. Ct. 518 (2014)
This was a divorce after an eleven year marriage. Upon divorce, the probate judge ordered husband to pay monthly alimony that was approximately forty-one percent of the difference in incomes, which exceeded the thirty to thirty-five percent range set forth in the Alimony Reform Act. The Appeals Court stated that although such a deviation is “reasonable and lawful” under the Act, the probate court made no “finding as to the amount of alimony the wife needed in order to maintain the lifestyle she enjoyed during the marriage.” Thus, the probate court’s ruling on general support alimony was vacated.
Next, the Appeals Court reviewed the “self-modifying” portion of the alimony order. The Appeals Court detailed two major issues with this part of the order. First, the Appeals Court focused on the fact that the way the modification was ordered, the burden to show a change in circumstances was improperly shifted to the husband. The wife had no corresponding burden. Second, the Appeals Court found the ‘self-modifying” order gave the Wife access to the Husband’s financial information but did not grant the same right to the Husband. The husband would not be privy to information regarding the wife’s income and whether a material change had occurred in her needs.