Articles Posted in Alimony

In many walks of life, it is said that “timing is everything.” In the law, timing isn’t everything, but it definitely can be a crucial thing. Get your timing wrong in carrying out some procedural step in your case and that incorrect timing may have disastrous consequences. This is just another one (among the countless) reasons why, when your divorce is going through the legal process, you need a skilled Maryland divorce lawyer from beginning to end.

As a cautionary tale of what can go wrong when your timing is not correct, there’s this recent divorce case that originated in Prince George’s County. The couple litigated their divorce in 2020 and, on Jan. 7, 2021, the judge granted an absolute divorce. The divorce judgment also covered the marital home (ordering the wife to transfer her interest to the husband,) child custody, and child support.

The judgment did not, however, say how much child support the wife was required to pay the husband each month.

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Most contested divorces are fact-intensive. They revolve around who did or didn’t do something, when a spouse purchased an asset (and what assets were used to make that purchase,) the amount of money a spouse did or did not earn, and so forth. However, issues of law can also impact your divorce case, and a substantial change in the law can significantly influence how your divorce case is litigated. That’s one of the many places where having an experienced and diligent Maryland divorce attorney can benefit you, as your legal advocate will be up on the new laws and what you’ll need to succeed.

One of the bigger changes in Maryland law in 2020 was not something specific to divorce law. Maryland’s highest court, in a ruling related to a personal injury case about lead paint exposure, announced that Maryland was adopting a new standard for deciding whether or not expert testimony is admissible. That standard, called the Daubert standard (based upon the 1993 U.S. Supreme Court case of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals) lays out several criteria a judge should use to decide whether an expert’s evidence should be admitted or excluded.

At this point, you may find yourself thinking, what does this have to do with my divorce case? Aren’t experts usually just a part of criminal cases, malpractice cases and personal injury lawsuits?

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Roughly 25 years ago, a popular musician had a successful song entitled “Ironic” that, in part, discussed life events that were really bad timing – like winning the lottery and dying the next day. Pop music aside, the reality is that, sometimes, major events in one’s life sometimes can have peculiar timing, such as receiving a large influx of wealth shortly after you divorce. This kind of scenario may find you fighting to keep all of your wealth, including keeping your ex-spouse from getting an upsized amount of alimony. When it comes to protecting your assets in a divorce, make sure you have a skilled Maryland divorce attorney by your side.

The divorce case of R.T. and M.T. was one of those situations. In the divorce, the couple agreed on many issues, but were far apart on alimony. The trial court ultimately ordered the husband to pay the wife $1,800 per month for 72 months as rehabilitative alimony.

A scant three days after the judge signed that order, the husband received a large year-end bonus from his employer in the amount of $73,195. As soon as she learned about the order, the wife went back to court seeking an order modifying alimony. The trial judge, however, denied the wife’s request to modify the alimony award and that denial was upheld on appeal.

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Divorce and divorce-related legal cases often involve deep-seated emotions. They are cases that intertwine the coldly legal and the intensely personal. Those truths can sometimes lead your ex-spouse to try to bring into your case things that, while perhaps important to him personally, are not important legally to resolution of the issue that brought you into court. When that happens, you need the skill and knowledge of an experienced Maryland family law attorney on your side to help you get those irrelevant things excluded from your case and, when necessary, placed under court seal.

E.O. was a Prince George’s County wife who had that kind of problem in her case. In 2018, E.O. and her husband received a divorce. The court also adjudicated issues of child custody, visitation, child support and alimony.

After the court issued the judgment of divorce, the spouses filed several post-judgment motions. On several of those, the husband included photographic “support” as attachments to his filings. Those photographs displayed dried blood stains within the couple’s home. The husband’s argument was that this blood was proof that E.O. had attempted to perform an “at-home abortion,” that this pregnancy and abortion were proof of E.O.’s adultery.

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For many divorced parents who have children but whose children reside with their ex-spouse, paying both alimony and child support is part of life. If you’re one of those parents, you may struggle with meeting both of those financial obligations. If you have found that you no longer have the monetary means to pay both types of support at the amounts ordered by the court, make sure that you reach out to an experienced Maryland divorce attorney and investigate which options are available to you to keep you current on your obligations.

P.N. was one of those parents dealing with an arrearage in his court case. When his divorce was finalized in 2005, a Maryland trial court ordered him to pay “non-modifiable” alimony of $3,250 per month and $1,422 per month in child support. At the wife’s request, the husband’s alimony and child support sums were paid through wage garnishment.

The husband eventually fell behind on both alimony and child support, since he did not make enough to pay both obligations. Eventually, he went back to court to ask that, going forward, all the money that he paid be credited toward his child support obligation, and, only after that was satisfied, would anything be paid toward alimony. Maryland’s state agency responsible for distributing the sums garnished from the husband had a different way of handling things, however. The sums garnished from the husband’s income went roughly 70% for alimony and 30% for child support.

When you’re going through a divorce, there are many things that may concern you, especially if you make a substantially larger income than your spouse. Obviously, one of those things is your spouse seeking alimony for a long duration, perhaps even indefinite alimony. However, there are some things you can do that will limit the amount of alimony the judge will order – or perhaps even allow you to avoid an alimony obligation entirely. To best protect yourself from an excessively large alimony obligation, be sure you have representation from an experienced Maryland family law attorney every step of the way.

A recent case involving a Montgomery County couple shows the way one wife achieved this goal. The wife was a medical doctor employed by the FDA, making around $180,000-200,000 per year. The husband never made even ½ that amount and, at the time of the couple’s divorce, alleged that he made “a mere $30,000” per year. The husband alleged that he had made multiple attempts to secure full-time employment, but had failed each time. He also asserted that his monthly expenses exceeded what he was making by several thousand dollars per month.

Based on those numbers, you might expect that the husband would receive a significant amount of alimony, mightn’t you? However, in this case, the trial judge ordered the wife to pay zero in alimony and that ruling stood up on appeal. How did the wife achieve this success? She did it by producing her own evidence that cast doubt on the credibility of the story that the husband provided to the courts.

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Whether your spouse is making a claim for alimony, a claim that you dissipated assets, or both, it is important to know that there are certain expectations the law has of her, and certain things she must prove to the court, before she can be entitled to a ruling in her favor. In other words, there is an opportunity for you to oppose these legal arguments successfully by persuading the court that your ex-spouse has failed to meet her burden of proof. To be sure you have the resources you need on your side to win these kinds of legal battles, be sure you have an experienced Maryland alimony / spousal support attorney on your side.

In a divorce case, a claim for alimony is one of the most common issues that may arise, as a spouse who has historically earned less and continues to have a smaller income very commonly will seek a sum of alimony as part of the divorce judgment. While less common that alimony, a spouse’s “dissipation” of assets is another common claim. This means that one spouse allegedly used marital funds for the divorce for some purpose other than marital need. If, for example, you used marital assets to buy an expensive car for your child from a previous marriage, then that could constitute dissipation of assets.

The recent case of two spouses from Frederick County, M.B. and J.B., is helpful in shining light on certain requirements for each of these types of claims. J.B., the wife, sought rehabilitative alimony. For a spouse to be entitled to an award of rehabilitative alimony, she must demonstrate to the trial court that the award will facilitate her rehabilitating herself into a self-supporting divorced individual. Your spouse, if she contends that she needs additional education or professional training, must indicate exactly what education/training is needed and exactly how that would allow her to find “suitable employment.”

If you know a little bit about Maryland family law, then you may know that, even if you are awarded permanent alimony in your divorce, that support may not always be permanent. The law allows your ex-spouse to get that obligation modified if he can show that he underwent a change in his financial circumstances that qualifies as “substantial.”

For most people, transitioning from the world of work to retirement involves a significant change in income. So, does that necessarily mean that, if your spouse retires, you automatically lose your much-needed alimony? No, it doesn’t. You still have various ways in which you can defeat a motion asking the judge to modify the alimony obligation you’re receiving. One of the best ways to avail yourself to those options is to retain a skilled Maryland family law attorney.

If your spouse has filed a motion to terminate or modify an existing alimony obligation that you’re receiving, two ways in which you can attack this request and keep your alimony payments at their current level are:

Maryland law recognizes two different types of alimony. Rehabilitative alimony is alimony that is paid (or received) for a fixed and finite period of time. Indefinite alimony is, as the name suggests, something that does not have a specified end date. While Maryland law generally disfavors indefinite alimony, there are certain situations in which indefinite alimony is proper. The key is to understand which type of alimony the facts of your case point toward. An experienced Maryland family law attorney can help you to determine which type of alimony you are entitled to.

Alimony was a key issue for one long-term married couple when they divorced, in the following case. Like many married couples, this pair had a wide disparity of incomes. The couple had married in 1989 and the wife filed for divorce in 2016. The wife was a self-employed fundraising consultant who made approximately $75,000 per year. The husband was a highly successful attorney who earned $474,000 at the time of the divorce. As part of her divorce action, the wife sought spousal support. The court, in issuing the divorce judgment, awarded the wife spousal support of $5,000 per month for nine years. The wife appealed this ruling and obtained a reversal.

The law in Maryland typically favors awards of spousal support that last for only a fixed, limited period of time. There are, however, two situations in which indefinite alimony is the proper outcome. One of these is if the recipient spouse cannot reasonably be expected to become self-supporting, whether due to age, illness or disability. The other is if, even after the recipient spouse has become as self-supporting as possible, the disparity between the spouses’ incomes is “unconscionably disparate.” The latter of these two circumstances was the successful argument for the wife in this case.

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.

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