For some divorcing couples, financial matters may be the key issues in dispute. These can include many things, such as the division of assets and alimony. Some cases may also involve a request that one spouse pay the other spouse’s attorney’s fees. When resolving these disputes, there are certain procedural requirements. If those requirements are not followed, you may be able to use that failure to get the trial court’s order reversed. Family law cases, just like other civil cases, can involve the use of technical legal arguments to achieve the outcome you need, which is why it is helpful to have a knowledgeable Maryland divorce attorney on your side.
One recent case that heavily involved financial issues was the divorce of Teresa and Ernest, who had been married for almost two decades when the divorce petition was filed. The wife sought an award of alimony and also sought, as part of the court’s order, that the husband pay her attorney’s fees.
The trial court, however, awarded the wife no alimony and no attorney’s fees. The wife appealed that ruling, and the appeals court sent the case back to the trial judge. In this couple’s circumstances, the wife was, at the time of the hearing, unemployed. Her only income was $1,952 in child support. Her monthly expenses exceeded $5,000 per month. The husband, on the other hand, had a gross income of more than $21,000 per month.
In general, the key factors that a trial court must analyze in order to make a determination about alimony are the requesting spouse’s need and the supporting spouse’s ability to pay. Given the wife’s demonstrated need and the husband’s seemingly clear ability to pay, this couple’s case would seem to be one that called for some alimony, at least for a finite period of time (rehabilitative alimony). There might be situations in which, even with the requesting spouse appearing to have a significant need and the supporting spouse having an apparent ability to pay, alimony is not appropriate. But those situations require clear findings from the trial court that explain the extenuating circumstances that made an award of no alimony proper. The trial court in this couple’s case did not make any of that type of findings.
Awards of attorney’s fees operate somewhat similarly to alimony. The court must assess each spouse’s financial condition, including both resources and needs. The court must also, though, analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the case of the party seeking an award of fees. While the wife had a clear need, the husband’s proof of financial obligations, including paying rent for his apartment and paying the mortgage on the marital home in which the wife was living, was substantial enough that a denial of an award of attorney’s fees was not obviously improper.
For skillful and effective representation in your alimony or other family law case, contact experienced Maryland alimony attorney Anthony A. Fatemi. Our office has helped clients achieve successful outcomes in their family law cases for many years. To find out how we can help you, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.
More blog posts:
A Maryland Wife’s Lack of Proof of ‘Unconscionable Disparity’ of Income Allows Her Husband to Avoid an Indefinite Alimony Obligation, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, March 15, 2018
Modification of Alimony in Maryland and When That Modification Can Apply Retroactively, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, July 14, 2017