Articles Posted in Spousal Support

There are an absolutely enormous number of reasons why having a skilled family law attorney representing you is better than going it alone. You can probably think of a few… or maybe several. One of the ones that may not have occurred to you is when you have a sudden emergency that prevents you from attending your regularly scheduled court hearing. If you have no attorney and you no-show, the results can be disastrous, as a recent case from Montgomery County demonstrated. On the other hand, a skilled attorney who is representing you will know the best way to go about notifying the court of your emergency and taking other essential action on your behalf, such as requesting a continuance and a rescheduled future date for the hearing, thereby saving you from the disaster of having no one present to speak for you.

S.T. and M.L., the couple in the Montgomery County case, divorced in 2013. They agreed to a voluntary separation and property settlement agreement that dictated that the husband make several payments each month. After the husband allegedly failed to make certain required payments, the wife went back to court in 2018 seeking an order holding the husband in contempt.

In late December 2018, the spouses went before a magistrate and had a merits hearing. (To give you a little background about Maryland court procedure, certain cases go before a magistrate before a judge considers them. A magistrate will hear evidence and will file a “report” in which he/she makes findings of fact and also makes a recommendation to the judge.)

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In any court case, including family law matters, it is important to follow the orders handed down by the judge. If orders are not followed, it is also important to understand the consequences that can flow from noncompliance, such as contempt of court. In a recent decision by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, the court upheld a trial court’s decision finding a husband in contempt, ordering him to pay $12,000 to purge the contempt and threatening the man with jail if he didn’t pay the $12,000 within 60 days. The appeals court acknowledged that a party cannot go to jail for failing to pay an amount he lacked the financial ability to pay, but the man’s appeal of the threat of jail in this case was premature.

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Every 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

Divorce 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 before 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

In a recent case, a Maryland wife sued for divorce in 2010. The husband countersued shortly thereafter, but the following year, he mother dismissed the original suit and brought a new one requesting alimony, child support and monetary award.

Both husband and wife were lawyers. The wife stopped working when she got pregnant with twins and there were complications. The wife did not return to work because the twins had health problems. The couple had a third child. The wife had been making about $120,000 per year when she stopped working.

By 2010, the husband was making more than $800,000 per year. This allowed the couple an affluent lifestyle, including a house worth $2 million, multiple cars, private school and dinners out. The amount of time the husband spent at work put a strain on the marriage and drove them to minor violence towards each other before they finally separated. Continue reading

It’s extremely rare for someone to request alimony separate from divorce these days, but it is possible. In an interesting 2009 case that illustrates the importance of having a family lawyer represent you through your divorce, a couple were married and had two children. The husband filed for limited divorce after a one-year separation from his wife. Next the wife counter-claimed for absolute divorce on the basis of adultery and abandonment. The wife requested alimony.

Both of the spouses needed an interpreter and were not represented by counsel. By law, requests for divorce are granted only with a corroborating witness. Neither the husband nor the wife had brought one. The court wasn’t able to award a divorce or a limited divorce. Additionally neither spouse offered testimony to corroborate grounds for divorce. The trial judge nonetheless heard testimony on child support and alimony.

Although the divorce case collapsed, the judge awarded custody of the two kids to the wife and ordered the husband to pay child support of $764. The judge ordered the husband to pay $1500 to the wife every month as indefinite alimony. The court did not characterize the alimony or child support as pendente lite (temporary pending litigation). The case was closed with the requests for divorce denied. Continue reading

In spite of an increasing number of headlines involving people whose social media use has endangered their lawsuits, Americans continue to post incriminating information on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social networks. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, as of September 2013, 73% of adults online in America use social networks. Unfortunately a feature of social networking is its ease; because it’s so easy to connect with others, most people don’t think very carefully before they post or tweet. A Maryland divorce, alimony, child custody and divorce battles can be put in jeopardy by the information your soon-to-be-ex-spouse or a family law attorney finds about your on Twitter.

In the past, couples would hire private detectives to find out whether their spouse had cheated or had other secrets that could result in is getting easier and easier to catch litigants in lies. Often this is no longer necessary because people willingly share information that can damage them on social media.

If you are going through a divorce, you should either close your social media accounts or simply take a break from them. Privacy filters are unlikely to be of much help in a divorce case. One reason for this is that couples share a lot of common friends. It is very easy to think that you have gotten “custody” of a particular friend and be wrong. A friend may casually mention something to your spouse not knowing it is information that will hurt you.

Maryland separation agreements can waive the parties’ right to have the court assume jurisdiction over modifications to spousal support. Removing the court’s power to modify a separation agreement can prove problematic in the event that one of the parties regrets the terms of the original separation agreement.

In a 2010 case, a husband and wife were married for about 32 years before getting a divorce. They agreed through a separation agreement that the husband would pay permanent alimony of $4000 per month until he terminated his employment at which point the wife would continue to get 50% of his post-employment income.

The couple agreed to waive the right to have the agreement modified. In exchange for permanent alimony, the wife waived her interest in a particular property. They also agreed that the alimony provision of the agreement would be merged into the divorce decree. Continue reading

In Maryland and elsewhere, disagreements over alimony can be the subject of very heated lawsuits. In a recent case, an appellate court looked at the marriage of a couple that married in 1990. The husband adopted the wife’s son from a prior marriage. At the time of the wedding, the wife was working as a medical secretary and she had a high school diploma and some community college. The couple decided she could resign and take on part time work in order to be a primary caretaker for the son. The wife also managed the finances and lived a fairly active life, in spite of fibromyalgia.

They satisfied a 30 year mortgage in ten years. They didn’t have outstanding debts and lived a comfortable middle class lifestyle. They purchased a second home from the husband’s parents and amassed $200,000 in a joint savings account. They started to have marital problems within the first five years of their marriage. The wife disapproved of the husband’s disciplining of their son.

Because of the wife’s issue with the husband losing his temper and disciplining the son, she and the son moved out of the house and moved in with her parents for a period. She came back to the marital home and they sought counseling from a pastor. Shortly after moving into the second house, the wife woke up with severe back pain, caused by a ruptured disc. This worsened her fibromyalgia. She couldn’t care for her son or the house the way she could before. Continue reading

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