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:
- To persuade the court that your ex did not experience a legally substantial change in circumstances
- To persuade the judge that, despite the change in circumstances, keeping alimony at its current level would not be a “harsh and inequitable result” for your ex-spouse.
A recent case that began in Montgomery County is a good example. J.M. was a dentist who decided to retire in his early 70s, allegedly due to declining health. At the time of his retirement, Dr. M. had been earning nearly $190,000 per year from his practice. He had net assets of nearly $2.9 million.
E.M., the dentist’s ex-wife, was 68. Under the existing terms of alimony, the wife received $3,600 per month and was entitled to that amount until the husband died, the wife died, or the wife remarried. The husband argued extensively that forcing him to continue paying $3,600 per month into his retirement would be harsh and inequitable because it would mean that he would deplete all his assets and run out of money years before he would be expected to die.
When you are facing a hearing that involves extensive and complex financial issues — such as were “in play” in this couple’s alimony dispute — it often pays to have persuasive expert evidence on your side. Fortunately for E.M., she had presented compelling expert evidence in the trial court that countered the husband’s argument. She introduced the opinions of a forensic accountant, who testified that the husband could continue to meet the current obligation and reasonably be expected not to run out of money until age 88, which was actually beyond his expected death age (85) based on federal mortality tables.
When you have compelling expert evidence at trial, it can help in two ways. It may carry considerable weight with the trial judge and lead to an initial ruling in your favor, and it may make it harder for that ruling to be overturned on appeal. (Appeals courts generally only overturn in factual disputes if the trial judge makes an “abuse of discretion,” which is rarely the case when the trial judge made his ruling based on solid expert evidence presented at trial.)
What E.M.’s case came down to, and many cases come down to, was having the right amount and right kind of evidence to blunt the other side’s arguments. For your divorce-related needs, including alimony and property division, consult skilled Maryland family law attorney Anthony A. Fatemi, who has been helping Maryland spouses and parents for many years to work toward successful solutions. To find out how we can help you, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.