Elaine M. Epstein provided expert commentary in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly on the significance of a recent federal appeals court ruling that an ex-spouse had standing under the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act to sue for millions of dollars in marital assets her former spouse did not disclose during divorce proceedings before donating them to his college alma mater.
The lesson of the of 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision is that one cannot rely on a divorce case being truly over until all the “rocks have been turned over” when there is alleged fraud, deceit or nondisclosure, Ms. Epstein told the publication.
“That could be true years later in courts you never thought you’d be in,” Ms. Epstein said. “And third parties can be dragged in, even if they view themselves as innocent. Is that the right result? It depends on your perspective.”
She noted that because the 1st Circuit directed the lower court to re-examine a choice-of-law issue, the decision for now does not answer the question of how Massachusetts law will treat UFTA claims stemming from alleged fraud in the negotiation of a divorce settlement.
“However, what the case does say is that, as you look at the UFTA, a spouse can have a claim if you have decent grounds to reopen a divorce or if you have other unresolved civil claims — even if they haven’t yet been brought,” Ms. Epstein said.
Ms. Epstein, a partner at the firm, has over 35 years of experience as a family law practitioner. She is a founder and first president of the Massachusetts Women's Bar Association. Ms. Epstein has tried dozens of cases in the Probate & Family Courts and resolved hundreds more short of trial in a wide range of matters, including substantial asset divisions, contested parental rights, and novel issues involving the property rights of non-married cohabitants and the rights of non-biological parents. She has litigated complex jurisdictional issues and actions involving numerous cutting-edge issues in state, federal and appellate courts.