For most people, one of the biggest financial transitions we’ll make is from full-time employment to retirement. The move into retirement comes with many changes, and often involves a substantial reduction in income. When that happens, that reduction may entitle you to obtain a reduction in the amount of alimony you owe… or maybe even elimination of your entire remaining alimony obligation. A knowledgeable Maryland alimony lawyer can help guide you through the process and obtain a modification that is fair based on your new circumstances.
F.H. was one of those people. He planned to retire from work in early 2021 at the age of 71. He, however, remained obligated to pay his ex-wife $2,500 per month in indefinite alimony following a 2015 divorce. The husband, as a result, filed a motion with the court to get his indefinite alimony terminated.
In Maryland, getting your indefinite alimony terminated requires demonstrating several things to the court. For one thing, you have to show that there has been a “material change in circumstances that justify” the termination. This, by the way, can be a change on your end or your ex-spouse’s end. For example, if you become disabled and your post-disability income is a mere fraction of the $300,000 you were making as a physician, that might make termination justified. Alternately, if your spouse gets a new job making double what she did before, that might also be the sort of change of circumstances that justifies termination of your alimony obligation.
Either way, in addition to demonstrating a material change in circumstances, you also must show that “termination is necessary to avoid a harsh and inequitable result.”
In F.H.’s case, he went from earning more than $20,000 per month at a research and development firm to receiving $6,750 per month from Social Security and his retirement accounts. His monthly expenses were roughly $6,800. The ex-wife, on the other hand, was still working as a nurse practitioner and earning more than $12,500 from her job. Her monthly expenses were $8,100.
Given those numbers, the judge concluded that it would not be reasonable for the alimony obligation to continue, and granted the motion for termination.
Putting Your Best Case Forward at the Trial Court Hearing
F.H.’s case shows how important it is to present the strongest possible case at the trial level and secure the best possible judgment there. Cases like these are often fairly challenging to get overturned at the appellate level, making success at the trial level of paramount importance.
The ex-wife, in her appeal, argued that “the amount of the 2015 alimony award was insufficient to address an unconscionable disparity in the parties’ incomes,” that “she has to work more than one job to cover monthly expenses and make repairs to her home,” that “she has no money left over to save for retirement,” and that the “monetary award [she received in the original divorce] was based on incorrect information regarding her assets.”
None of these arguments prevailed. In fact, the appeals court did not even consider them. The appeals court decided that each of these contentions was something that the ex-wife should have litigated at the trial level and the legal doctrine of res judicata says that an appeal was not the proper place to “re-litigate matters that were or should have been considered at the time of the initial award.”
In this case, the husband’s income dropped by more than half and his legal team was able to use that change to get his alimony terminated. If you need a modification or termination of your alimony obligation as you approach retirement, get in touch with the skilled Maryland family law attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC. Our team has helped countless spouses who need their alimony modified, and we’re ready to get to work for you. Contact us today at 301-519-2801 or via our online form to set up your consultation.