Articles Posted in Alimony

large houseIn many circumstances, a divorced spouse may experience a change in employment and, with it, a sizable change in income. When that happens, the law may allow a spouse who owes alimony to seek a modification of that alimony obligation. If, however, the supporting spouse has intentionally reduced or ended his earnings, the law allows the court to “impute income” to the supporting spouse, which means viewing his support obligations in light of the salary he was capable of earning, rather than what he actually took in. For one Montgomery County divorced couple, that rule meant imputing significant income to an ex-husband who, according to the courts, spent extravagantly on everything except making his alimony payments.

The case involved the prolonged Maryland divorce litigation of Dennis and Sheri, who divorced in 2010. Even after the final divorce decree, the couple continued to litigate financial issues. One of those issues was alimony. The original arrangement called for the husband to pay the wife $9,000 per month in alimony. At that time, the husband earned a salary bringing in several hundred thousand dollars per year.

A few years later, the husband asked the court to modify his alimony obligation. He argued that he had incurred a significant reduction in income and that this reduction necessitated a reduction in his alimony payments. The trial court ruled against the husband. Instead, the court agreed with the wife that the husband was voluntarily impoverished, and, based upon that voluntary impoverishment, the court was entitled to impute income, which it did to an amount in excess of $300,000. With the husband’s imputed income standing at more than $300,000 per year, the husband lacked a sufficient change of circumstances needed to trigger a modification of his alimony obligation.

wallet moneyA popular science fiction movie contained an oft-quoted line that admonished against being someone who “deals in absolutes.” This is often good advice when it comes to many types of legal matters, including alimony cases. It is also why the answer you may get from your Maryland divorce attorney to your alimony question is, “It depends.” For example, many cases in which a supporting spouse qualifies for a modification of spousal support also involve the imposition of a retroactive modification, but not always. In one recent case, the husband qualified for a suspension of his spousal support obligation but not for a retroactive modification because his spending habits after his job ended belied an inability to meet his obligations.

Robert and Mary Ann were a Montgomery County couple who had divorced. As part of their divorce case, they had reached a marital settlement agreement in 2014. That agreement stated that the husband would pay the wife alimony for a limited duration of time.

In most situations, you can file a petition with a court to seek a modification of your alimony. In order to be eligible for a modification, you have to show the judge that you’ve experienced a substantial and material change in your circumstances. The law gives you, as two divorcing spouses, the right to include in your marital settlement agreement terms that state when, if ever, a supporting spouse is eligible to go to court and seek a modification.

100 Dollar BillsIn a recent case from Montgomery County, the Court of Special Appeals was presented with a husband’s appeal of an alimony award that granted his ex-wife an indefinite award of five-figure-per-month alimony, even though the wife had a steady six-figure income. The alimony award survived the appeal because, even though the wife had a substantial and steady income, the disparity between the spouses’ respective incomes was so large that, without the award, the disparity would be “unconscionable.”

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graduationThe law in Maryland allows the courts to award spouses various types of alimony. One of these types is rehabilitative alimony. In Maryland, the basis for awarding rehabilitative alimony is a specific one. If, as occurred in one recent case decided by the Court of Special Appeals, the evidence brought to the trial court offers no proof of how the recipient spouse will enhance, through training or education, her ability to find suitable employment at the end of the award period, an award of rehabilitative alimony must be reversed.

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checkbookIn a case arising from a somewhat unusual marital settlement agreement, the Court of Special Appeals recently threw out a summary judgment order in favor of a husband who had persuaded the trial court that he had substantially complied with his financial obligations spelled out in that agreement. However, since the wife had presented enough evidence to raise a potentially triable case regarding whether a check she received from her husband was a payment under the agreement or a gift, the trial court should not have granted a summary judgment in favor of the husband.

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dollar billsThere are many factors that go into a Maryland alimony case. Courts must make decisions regarding recipient spouses’ needs, as well as paying spouses’ abilities to pay. Sometimes, these cases are made more complex when the recipient spouse hasn’t been in the workforce for years, or has a medical condition that limits her ability to work. In the case of one Bel Air couple, the Court of Special Appeals recently upheld a ruling that imputed an income of more than $20,000 to the wife, a stay-at-home-mom and cancer survivor. The wife lost this part of her appeal because the evidence before the trial court did not demonstrate that she was unable to work.

The couple in the case, Mark St. Cyr and Lauren St. Cyr, married in 1994. A year later, the wife delivered the couple’s first child and quit her $45,000-per-year assistant branch manager position to raise the daughter. The couple had two more children, in 1997 and 1999. The wife stayed at home, raising all three of the children. In 2009, doctors diagnosed the wife with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The wife underwent chemotherapy and bone marrow extraction, and her cancer eventually went into remission.

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army-of-dollars-1-1149867-mEvery state in the country has the authority to enact laws governing marriage and divorce. Couples who initiate divorce proceedings will be subject to their state’s particular laws. It is important to understand the family code in your state, as well as the applicable laws that will likely affect the outcome of your case. The Maryland Family Code covers a multitude of issues, such as child custody, division of property, and spousal support, also known as alimony. In many family law cases, the amount of alimony to be awarded is a hotly contested issue. If you are considering a divorce, it is vitally important to understand and protect your financial rights. The best course of action is to contact an experienced Maryland family law attorney as early in the proceedings as possible.

In a recent divorce case, the husband argued (among other things) that the trial court abused its discretion by awarding his wife “indefinite alimony” and  finding that payments he described as “loans” made to him by his employer constituted income during the marriage to be included in “marital property” for purposes of calculating alimony. According to the court, Maryland’s statutory framework leans in favor of granting “rehabilitative alimony” to spouses, under which payments are awarded for a fixed term. But courts also have the authority to order indefinite alimony pursuant to a list of statutory factors. Continue reading →

dark-dollar-2-1193021-mDivorce affects each family in a unique way. In most cases, however, the parties will have to address and resolve many emotional and financial matters. Some of the more significant financial issues concern child support, spousal support, and the division of marital property. Depending on the circumstances, one party may be entitled to spousal support (also known as “alimony”) from the other. Couples contemplating divorce are encouraged to consult with an experienced family law attorney early in the proceedings in order to ensure that their financial rights are protected. Since divorce is regulated by each state individually, it is important to contact a Maryland lawyer who is fully familiar with the local laws and procedures in this state.

Spouses have the ability to craft their own settlement agreement, which may contain provisions concerning alimony, including the amount, duration, and other limitations. In a recent Maryland case, the parties were married in 1966 and were granted an absolute divorce in 1985. In 1998, they signed an amendment to their voluntary separation and property settlement agreement that was incorporated into the divorce decree. The amendment provided, in pertinent part, that the husband would pay spousal support to the wife in the amount of $26,800 per year, in monthly installments, for as long as the parties live separate and apart, and until either the wife remarries or either party dies.

The clause further provided that it is not subject to modification by any court, with limited, identified exceptions. Finally, the provision included a waiver of the parties’ rights to have any court change or create a different provision for the wife’s support and maintenance. Despite this agreed-upon language, the husband sought to terminate alimony in order to avoid a “harsh and inequitable result,” alleging that he had become permanently disabled and cannot work and earn an income. The wife filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that he had waived his right to petition the court to modify spousal support and maintenance. Continue reading →

When a couple decides to divorce, there are many important issues to address and resolve beforemonthly-fee-5-1108079-m the parties can move forward with their respective lives. Many of these matters involve important financial considerations, such as the amount and duration of alimony payments. Fortunately, Maryland law provides some guidance for courts to use when determining the question of alimony. But each divorce case presents a unique set of facts that tend to influence whether and to what extent a court will order alimony to one spouse or the other. If you are considering a divorce, it is important to protect your financial interests at the earliest stage in the process, and consult with an experienced family law attorney who is familiar with the laws affecting Maryland families.

In a recent divorce case, the court of appeals addressed many issues raised separately by both spouses. One of the items on appeal concerned the amount of alimony awarded to the wife. Here, the parties graduated from Yale Law School in the early 1980s. They each had jobs at prestigious law firms and got married in 1989. The wife became pregnant in 1990 and stopped working to take care of their twin boys. When she stopped working, her annual salary was $120,000. They had a third child in 1994. The husband continued to work and was earning over $800,000 per year by 2010. The family lived an affluent lifestyle. In 2010, however, the couple separated, and both parties filed for divorce.

After a five-day trial, the court issued multiple awards, one pertaining to alimony. After reviewing the evidence, the court found that the wife’s earning capacity was based on her salary from over 20 years earlier and that the husband failed to produce evidence to support his claim that the wife could earn between $30,000 and $40,000 per year. Further, the trial court determined that the wife’s monthly, unearned income was $5,813, and her expenses totaled $15,812, leaving her with a significant deficit. The court ultimately awarded the wife $14,191 in monthly alimony payments. The husband appealed the award, arguing, among other things, that the trial court erred when it failed to impute any earned income to the wife. Continue reading →

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