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.
In this case, after a four-day trial, the court ordered (among other things) the husband to pay the wife $4,500 per month in indefinite alimony. The husband appealed. The court of appeals first looked to the parties’ income and then reviewed whether the standards of living between the spouses would be unconscionably disparate. Specifically, under FL § 11-106 (c) (2), courts have authority to award indefinite alimony if “after the party seeking alimony will have made as much progress toward becoming self-supporting as can reasonably be expected, the respective standards of living of the parties will be unconscionably disparate.”
But disparity in standard of living alone is not sufficient to mandate indefinite alimony. The court must also take into account the factors set forth in the statute, including the ability of the party seeking alimony to be wholly or partly self-supporting, the time necessary for the party seeking alimony to gain sufficient education or training to enable that party to find suitable employment, the standard of living that the parties established during their marriage, the duration of the marriage, the ability of the party from whom alimony is sought to meet that party’s needs while meeting the needs of the party seeking alimony, any agreement between the parties, the financial needs and financial resources of each party, and other issues.
The court of appeals ultimately agreed with the trial court and upheld the award of indefinite alimony. The court found that the money the husband characterized as a loan was in fact income for purposes of calculating alimony. Under the statute, the court agreed that the wife was only partially self-supporting, that the couple enjoyed a high standard of living while married, and that the husband did not lack the ability to pay alimony.
This case is a good illustration of the complicated nature of alimony awards and the importance of understanding how the law applies to your family’s situation. Parties anticipating a divorce are encouraged to contact Anthony A. Fatemi, an experienced Maryland family law attorney, for representation and legal guidance. Mr. Fatemi can be reached at (888) 519-2801 or (301) 519-2801.
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