How Your Spouse’s Marital Misconduct May Impact Your Monetary Award in a Maryland Divorce, Even If Yours is Not an Adultery Case

Here in Maryland, you have multiple avenues for seeking a divorce. You can pursue a “no-fault” divorce, provided you and your spouse have been separated for at least 12 months. Alternately, Maryland law recognizes six other causes for granting an absolute divorce, each of which revolves around the other spouse’s fault. Whether you’re proceeding with a no-fault divorce or a divorce based on your spouse’s fault, a skilled Maryland divorce lawyer can help you accomplish your goals more fully.

Obviously, if you’re pursuing a “fault” divorce based on your spouse’s adultery, you’re going to need proof of his/her bad conduct. In Maryland, you don’t have to present evidence of actual coupling between your spouse and a paramour; you simply have to establish that your spouse had both the “disposition” and the “opportunity” to cheat.

However, as a recent divorce case from Howard County shows, proof of your spouse’s marital misconduct can be beneficial to your case, even if you’re proceeding with a no-fault divorce.

The case involved A.H., a former NFL football player, and his wife, L.H., who sought a monetary award granting her 60% of the marital property as well as “an equitable division of retirement and pension plans.” The husband proposed that the wife receive a monetary award equal to 30% of the marital property.

Ultimately, the judge sided more closely with the wife, granting the wife a monetary award equal to 55% of the marital property, or about $3.27 million.

The Factors that Go Into Deciding a Monetary Award

When ruling on a monetary award issue, a Maryland judge looks at the factors laid out in Section 8-205(b) of the Family Law Article. That statute spells out an 11-factor list, which includes things like the value of the contributions (both monetary and nonmonetary) each spouse made, the value of all property, the economic circumstances of each spouse, the duration of the marriage, the spouses’ ages and the spouses’ respective mental and physical condition.

Subsection 8-205(b)(4), however, instructs judges to factor in “the circumstances that contributed to the estrangement of the parties.” In other words, if you have proof that your spouse engaged in misconduct that helped accelerate the breakdown of the marriage, that can favorably impact your monetary award, even if yours is not a divorce action based on a claim of adultery.

In L.H.’s case, she had that and it helped her achieve that $3.27 million monetary award. The judge found that the husband had engaged in soliciting explicit photographs from other women, including the couple’s 18-year-old babysitter and the wife of the husband’s former college roommate. According to the wife’s evidence, the husband spent $4,500 on the photos of the babysitter. These actions, according to the judge, “did contribute rather significantly to the dissolution of the marriage,” and warranted the monetary award.

The Appeals Court of Maryland ultimately upheld the ruling of the trial judge.

Obviously, most divorces are emotionally fraught times for the spouses going through them. The thoughtful and diligent Maryland family law attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC are here to help with the legal aspects of your divorce. Our experienced team is here to provide you with the knowledgeable answers and detail-oriented advocacy your case deserves. Contact us today at 301-519-2801 or via our online form to set up your consultation.

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