Condominium Associations Granted More Authority in Collecting Delinquent Fees

In Drummer Boy Homes Association Inc. v. Britton, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently ruled that condominium associations can impose consecutive, rolling super-liens against units that are delinquent in paying the common or special charges owed to the association. Condominium law in Massachusetts has always included the ability to impose regular monthly charges and irregular special assessments against units – since 1992, the law has also authorized a “super priority lien” to be filed against any units that failed to pay those charges.

The so-called super-lien takes priority over any mortgages that are also on the condominium unit, meaning that the condominium association charges are paid before the loan is paid if the unit is foreclosed on. This provides the association a very important tool in collecting its fees, because lenders require that borrowers pay the fees, and will often pay the condominium fees on behalf of the borrower in order to maintain their priority in the chain of title. (The borrower doesn’t avoid the fees when that happens – the lender simply tacks the amount paid on behalf of the borrower onto the borrower’s loan with the lender.)

The super-lien used by condominium associations can only be created and perfected when the condominium association takes specific steps to provide notice to the borrower and the lender, and the condominium law only allows for these notices to cover a six month period of unpaid condominium charges.

The importance of the Drummer Boy case was the court’s approval of the practice by which a condominium association could create and perfect a super-lien for a six month period, and then create and perfect a super-lien for the following six month period. Previously, it was argued by lenders that the super-lien was limited to a total of six months, but that argument was rejected by the SJC.

As a result of this decision, a condominium association is even better equipped to impose common charges and special assessments necessary for the successful continued operation of the association. Nevertheless, specific steps and timelines still have to be met to perfect and enforce these liens. If you’re a member of a condominium association, or a property manager working with a condominium association, contact Michael Gove at mgove@govelawoffice.com or 413-583-5196 to discuss how to make sure these steps are being taken.

Modifying Child Support or Custody/Parenting Time Orders

It is tough to know when it’s appropriate to modify a past child support or custody/parenting time order. A standard that courts look at is “a material change in circumstances,” which may seem vague and overbroad to many people. Here are a few examples of situations that may warrant modifying a support order: One parent changes jobs or obtains a promotion and makes a significant amount more or less than before; when a child is around 16 years old and planning to continue his/her education; if a child spends more or less time with one parent than before (the more time a child spends with one parent, in theory, the more the other parent should have to contribute to assist that parent who has the child for more time); and the length of time from the original court order.

If college is not discussed or provided for in a court order, it can be revisited later when the child is in high school and considering pursuing higher education. At that point, it becomes much more relevant and costs can be ascertained rather than be merely speculative.

Here are a few examples of situations that may warrant modifying a custody/parenting time order: Extracurricular activities are getting in the way of a parent’s time with his/her child and the other parent isn’t accommodating to switch days; an old parenting schedule or holiday schedule doesn’t work as the child gets older or traditions have changed; vacation or holiday time is absent from the agreement and becomes an issue later on; disputes arise about taking the child on vacations out of state; if either parent moves out of state or has a new job requiring a new schedule/parenting plan; or any type of disagreement about how the child should spend time with each parent, which never made its way into an official court order.

If there are issues with the original court order and the old order doesn’t seem to work anymore for your situation, a modification may be appropriate, especially if the other parent does not want to accommodate a request for an unofficial change to the existing order. Child support and custody/parenting time can be easily modifiable, since there are many situations that may arise that can be interpreted as “material” and significant in nature.

If you need any assistance or have any questions about a child support or custody modification, please contact our office at 413-583-5196 or info@govelawoffice.com.

Divorce Options: Litigation

In our first two posts about divorce options, attorney we discussed Limited Assistance Representation and mediation. In the last post in this series, we examine the most common approach to divorce.

The final and most common option is litigated divorce. Litigation does not necessarily mean that the case goes to trial, and often times it does not. The process to initiate a divorce is that one spouse needs to file a Complaint for Divorce with the Probate and Family Court and serve the other spouse with the Summons and Complaint. Most complaints for divorce cite as the reason for divorce that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and there is no hope for reconciliation. This is referred to as a no-fault divorce and is the most common. A fault divorce is different because there is a specific reason that the marriage dissolved, such as adultery, desertion, cruel and abusive treatment, confinement in prison, habits of intoxication, or impotency. The spouse initiating the divorce has the burden of proving the other spouse behaved in one or more of those ways during the marriage, and this can be a heavy burden; it is usually easier to show that a marriage has no hope of reconciliation. Also, there is no significant benefit to filing for a fault divorce, as it is only one of the eighteen factors a judge will look at to determine property distribution, alimony, and child custody and support.

Litigation is an appropriate option when a divorce is combative or emotionally charged. Litigation allows each party to have a lawyer advocating for their best options, which is a great asset to have during the divorce process. It also allows for some negotiation between the initial filing of the divorce and the first court appearance (usually a pre-trial conference). Many cases are settled before the pre-trial conference, at which time the judge reviews the separation agreement with the spouses, which will become the final divorce decree.

One danger of litigation occurs when the parties do not settle beforehand – any disagreement will be settled by a judge who knows little about your situation, but will have the final decisions about personal topics such as your children, assets, or potential future alimony. This option is usually pursued by spouses who have significant personal and/or business assets and cannot decide between themselves a fair and equitable allocation. Cases which involve alimony or spousal support may also go to trial, since there are many factors a judge can weigh in determining the type, amount, and duration of alimony and spouses seldom take all of those factors into consideration.

If you need any assistance with a divorce or family law matter, please contact our office at 413-583-5196 or info@govelawoffice.com.