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Lalchandani v. Roddy

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Hampden

January 5, 2015

Manohar A. Lalchandani
v.
Ruth H. Roddy.[1]

Argued: November 6, 2014.

Complaint for divorce filed in the Hampden Division of the Probate and Family Court Department on December 6, 1990.

A motion to dismiss a complaint for modification, which had been filed on March 1, 2013, was heard by Barbara M. Hyland, J.

Mark A. Tanner for the husband.

George W. Marion for the wife.

Present: Green, Wolohojian, & Blake, JJ.

OPINION

[22 N.E.3d 167] Blake, J.

Manohar A. Lalchandani, the former husband (hereinafter husband) of Ruth H. Roddy (hereinafter wife) appeals the dismissal of his complaint for modification of a judgment of divorce, in which he sought to decrease or to terminate his alimony obligation. In a case of first impression under the Ali-

Page 820

mony Reform Act of 2011 (act), we determine whether a payor spouse who has reached full Social Security retirement age is entitled to modification of his alimony obligation, where that obligation stems from a separation agreement that survived entry of the divorce judgment, but was subsequently modified by agreement of the parties. See St. 2011, c. 124. We affirm.[2]

Background.

The parties were divorced on September 21, 1992, after nearly twenty-one years of marriage. The judgment of divorce incorporated the terms of the parties' separation agreement (1992 agreement), which provided, in pertinent part, that the husband was to (1) pay $4,333.33 per month to the wife as alimony until either party's death or the wife's remarriage, (2) maintain health insurance for the wife until either party's death or the wife's remarriage, and (3) maintain a life insurance policy with a death benefit of $200,000 until either party's death or the wife's remarriage. The 1992 agreement further provided that it was to be incorporated -- but not merged -- into the divorce judgment, and accordingly would retain independent legal significance.[3] Nevertheless, [22 N.E.3d 168] the 1992 agreement allowed the parties to modify its terms by mutual agreement. Specifically, the 1992 agreement indicated, " This Agreement shall not be altered or modified except by an instrument signed and acknowledged by the Husband and the Wife."

In October of 1996, the wife filed a complaint for contempt against the husband for, among other claims, unpaid alimony. The parties resolved the contempt action by a stipulation filed on December 17, 1996. The stipulation was incorporated, but not merged, into a modification judgment dated January 8, 1997, and provided that the husband would pay a compromised amount of the alimony arrearage to the wife, and the wife agreed to be solely responsible for the ...


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