Articles Posted in Alimony

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.

In your alimony case in Maryland, whether you are the potential supporting spouse or the potential recipient spouse, it is important to go into the process understanding what Maryland law says about alimony. Maryland used to view alimony as a means for allowing the recipient spouse to maintain the standard of living she enjoyed during the marriage (or something close to it). Today, the law views alimony as a means to assist the recipient spouse in becoming self-supporting. That change affects many things, including the range of circumstances in which a recipient spouse is entitled to indefinite alimony. For reliable advice about how these legal rules of alimony might affect your case, talk to an experienced Maryland alimony attorney.

As an example of this legal rule and how it affects an outcome, there was the recent case of Richard and Rebecca. Richard and Rebecca’s relationship was one that became extremely complicated, to say the least. The couple separated in 2015 after nine years of marriage. That separation came on the heels of the husband’s arrest for theft. In this situation, though, it wasn’t just any theft. Richard stole hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Civil War-era artifacts from the wife’s family.

After a hearing, the trial judge ordered the husband to pay child support and to pay the wife indefinite alimony. The husband appealed, arguing that the trial judge miscalculated child support and that the judge should have awarded the wife no alimony at all.

When you are negotiating a separation agreement, it is important to “sweat the small stuff,” or more advisably, retain an experienced Maryland divorce attorney to “sweat the small stuff” for you. Each detail in your agreement is binding, and small differences can have large impacts down the road in terms of things like alimony payments, child support, or other financial outcomes. With an experienced attorney working for you, you can make a fully informed and knowledgeable decision before you sign off on that settlement agreement.

One recent case focusing on a settlement agreement was the alimony dispute between Jonathan and Andrea, who finalized their divorce in 2011. During the divorce process, the couple worked out a Separation and Property Settlement Agreement. The agreement covered alimony and child support, among other things. The alimony provision in the agreement called for Jonathan to pay Andrea alimony for eight years (ending in December 2019). The alimony obligation could end earlier if any one of several events happened. Those included Jonathan’s death, Andrea’s death, Andrea’s remarriage, or Andrea’s cohabitation.

By the spring of 2016, Jonathan was back in court, seeking to have his alimony obligation terminated, along with reimbursement for some months of alimony that he’d already paid. Jonathan’s argument was that Andrea had been cohabitating with a man since August 2015, if not earlier. Based on the evidence the spouses presented, the trial judge concluded that Andrea was living with the man and that the two were in a long-term intimate relationship.

In Maryland, when a couple divorces, the law allows for an award of alimony to one spouse, but the law will also expect that spouse to do everything reasonable to make herself as self-supporting as possible. If that spouse isn’t making an effort to support herself, the courts are allowed to calculate alimony as if the spouse were earning an income. That can be true even if the supporting spouse earns a million dollars per year, and the recipient spouse has rarely ever made more than $20,000 annually. Thus, even if you make much more than your spouse, you may be able to argue voluntary impoverishment to reduce your alimony obligation. An experienced Maryland alimony attorney can help you navigate the process for litigating the issue of alimony and related matters like voluntary impoverishment.

A case in which a vast income disparity and voluntary impoverishment were issues was Charles and Pamela. The pair were married for roughly a decade and a half from the late 1990s until the 2010s. At the time of the couple’s divorce trial, Charles, who was the president of a successful auto dealership in Bethesda, was making $1.2 million per year. Pamela was not employed, having last worked as a pre-school teacher. During the marriage, she never made more than $29,000 annually and rarely more than $20,000.

At the trial’s conclusion, the Montgomery County Circuit Court judge ordered the husband to pay the wife almost $970,000, which the husband did in a timely fashion. The judge, however, rejected the wife’s request to award her permanent alimony. Instead, the court concluded that the wife had voluntarily impoverished herself by not working, imputed income to her in the amount of $20,000 per year, and ordered the husband to pay her $5,000 per month for 60 months.

When you go through the legal process of getting a divorce, you almost certainly hope that the final resolution of your divorce case will provide a degree of closure. Sometimes, though, things change or things unfold in a way that you didn’t expect and your needs change. When that happens, the law provides an avenue for you to seek changes to things like alimony. Even when the court originally only gave you alimony for a specific, limited period of time, you may be able to get that changed to indefinite alimony. An experienced Maryland alimony attorney can guide you as you navigate the process of obtaining a modification of your alimony award.

The case in question was one in which the wife was able to obtain indefinite alimony through the modification process. A court in Talbot County granted the couple’s divorce in February 2014. At that time, the judge awarded the wife alimony in the amount of $750 per month, but only for a limited duration. Before the time period elapsed, the wife was back in court, asking for an increase in the amount of her monthly alimony and an extension of the duration of alimony. The wife argued that, during the course of the preceding months, her circumstances had changed. The trial judge accepted the wife’s arguments and modified her alimony. The judge did not increase the monthly amount but changed the award to indefinite alimony.

The husband appealed, but he lost. His argument, which did not win, was that the wife had not experienced a proper change in circumstances. In Maryland, you must have experienced a qualifying change in circumstances in order for a court even to consider granting you an increase in your alimony. There are various ways that you can establish that you have undergone the sort of changed circumstances recognized by Maryland law as allowing a modification. One way is to persuade the court that, without an increase in your alimony, a “harsh and inequitable” outcome would result.

As you go through the process of getting a divorce, there are several things to keep in mind. For one thing, it may be useful to resolve as many issues as possible directly between the spouses. However, if you do negotiate an agreement on alimony, property division, or other issues, it is important to understand that, just as with any other contract, details matter. To make sure that your agreement accurately reflects the deal you intended to forge with your ex-spouse, make sure that you have an experienced Maryland alimony lawyer on your side.

An example of the importance of details in an agreement was highlighted in the case of Michael and Nancy. The pair was a divorced couple locked in a legal battle regarding alimony. In 2010, when they divorced, they reached a court-mediated agreement regarding alimony. That agreement stated that the husband, an OB/GYN doctor who made nearly $290,000 per year, would pay the wife $5,500 per month for a period of six years.

In 2015, the wife returned to court, seeking to modify the terms of her alimony. During the marriage, the wife had earned a very small income and was also limited as a result of medical treatment related to her long-term cancer battle. At the time of the divorce, she was making $975 per month working for a non-profit music society. In her request for modification, the wife asserted that she had made concerted efforts to become self-supporting but had not been able to secure employment that would make her self-supporting. Based upon this, the wife asked the court to modify the alimony award to make the payments continue indefinitely.

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