Maryland Court Rejects Alimony Award When Wife Wasn’t Pursuing Additional Training or Education

The 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.

The couple in this case was a pair who married in 1988 and divorced in 2014. For much of the marriage, the wife had been a school teacher in Montgomery County. Eventually, though, facing disciplinary action at her existing job, the wife quit. Despite having made $100,000 per year teaching in Montgomery County, the wife refused to pursue new teaching positions because she considered herself to be “burned out” and the profession to be “too stressful.”

The wife planned a move to South Carolina and applied for work at various retail stores, grocery stores, and a restaurant there, but she received no offers of employment. In the divorce case, the wife asked the court to award her indefinite alimony.

The trial court, after reviewing all of the evidence, found that the wife had voluntarily impoverished herself. She had no health conditions that prevented her from working. She had a master’s degree and many years of professional experience. In many cases, when the court finds that you have voluntarily impoverished yourself, it will impute income to you. (Imputing income means that the court will treat you as if your income was the higher imputed amount for the purpose of deciding issues like alimony.) In this case, after making the voluntary impoverishment finding, the court still awarded the wife alimony. The trial judge awarded her $2,500 per month for two years in rehabilitative alimony.

The husband appealed, and his appeal was successful. The trial judge’s rehabilitative alimony award had two significant problems. One flaw was the decision to award rehabilitative alimony. Rehabilitative alimony is a variety of alimony awarded to a recipient spouse for a specific duration and for a specific reason. The length of that duration is tailored to match the time that it is expected to take the recipient spouse to complete certain education or obtain certain training needed to find “suitable employment.”

In this case, the wife already had a master’s degree and a teaching certification and, according to the trial court, didn’t need to obtain additional education or training to find suitable employment.

The trial court gave no indication of the additional training or education it expected the wife to obtain in the upcoming two years that would enhance her ability to obtain suitable employment. Without an explanation from the trial judge as to what the wife would obtain in that two-year period to rehabilitate her ability to find suitable employment, the award of rehabilitative alimony could not stand.

For knowledgeable, skillful, and determined representation in your alimony or other family law case, contact Maryland alimony attorney Anthony A. Fatemi to find out how this office can assist you. Contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

More blog posts:

Factors that Go Into a Decision to Impute Income in a Maryland Alimony Case, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, April 27, 2016

Maryland Court Upholds Award of “Indefinite Alimony” to Wife, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, Nov. 26, 2014

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