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McLaughlin v. McLaughlin, Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Unpublished Disposition, No. 12-P-602, April 22, 2013

In McLaughlin v. McLaughlin, the Probate and Family Court found the defendant in contempt for violating two provisions in a judgment of divorce. The Massachusetts Appeals Court, pursuant to Rule 1:28, upheld the judgment finding that the defendant was in contempt of one provision such that there was one sound basis to support the judgment even though the trial court erred in its other finding of contempt.

The wife filed a complaint for contempt asserting the husband's failure to abide by two provisions of their divorce judgment. The first provided that the marital home be listed for sale and the "parties shall be guided by the listing broker as to the appropriate listing price." The second provision provided that the husband maintain life insurance for "as long as he has an obligation to pay child support," and mail the wife evidence of the same annually. Child support payments would commence following the sale of the home. The husband refused to reduce the listing price as recommended by the broker, and failed to provide evidence of his life insurance. The Probate and Family Court found the husband in contempt of both provisions and awarded the wife attorneys’ fees.

The Appeals Court found that the Probate and Family Court erred with regard to the first provision concerning the marital home since the term "guided" did not mean that the parties were bound to follow the broker's recommendations. However, the Appeals Court did find a clear and unequivocal command with regard to the life insurance provision. Although the judgment provided that the husband only have insurance in place "for so long as" he has an obligation to pay child support, the Appeals Court found that the "for so long as" clause denoted an end point and not a starting point of his obligation.