Massive Gap Between Wife’s Income and Husband’s Income Requires an Award of Indefinite Alimony, Maryland Court Says

Maryland law recognizes two different types of alimony. Rehabilitative alimony is alimony that is paid (or received) for a fixed and finite period of time. Indefinite alimony is, as the name suggests, something that does not have a specified end date. While Maryland law generally disfavors indefinite alimony, there are certain situations in which indefinite alimony is proper. The key is to understand which type of alimony the facts of your case point toward. An experienced Maryland family law attorney can help you to determine which type of alimony you are entitled to.

Alimony was a key issue for one long-term married couple when they divorced, in the following case. Like many married couples, this pair had a wide disparity of incomes. The couple had married in 1989 and the wife filed for divorce in 2016. The wife was a self-employed fundraising consultant who made approximately $75,000 per year. The husband was a highly successful attorney who earned $474,000 at the time of the divorce. As part of her divorce action, the wife sought spousal support. The court, in issuing the divorce judgment, awarded the wife spousal support of $5,000 per month for nine years. The wife appealed this ruling and obtained a reversal.

The law in Maryland typically favors awards of spousal support that last for only a fixed, limited period of time. There are, however, two situations in which indefinite alimony is the proper outcome. One of these is if the recipient spouse cannot reasonably be expected to become self-supporting, whether due to age, illness or disability. The other is if, even after the recipient spouse has become as self-supporting as possible, the disparity between the spouses’ incomes is “unconscionably disparate.” The latter of these two circumstances was the successful argument for the wife in this case.

The law in Maryland does not contain a precise percentage figure, in terms of disparity of income, at which the gap becomes legally unconscionable. However, the difference between incomes for this wife and husband was clearly enough to qualify based upon previous court rulings. In the past, the courts had found unconscionable disparity in cases where recipient spouses made 28, 33, 35 and even 43 percent of the supporting spouse. In this case, the wife’s $75,000 income represented only 15 percent of the husband’s $474,000 income. This clearly fell within the parameters of an unconscionable disparity, which meant that the court should have done additional analysis and considered giving the wife indefinite alimony.

The wife was entitled to indefinite alimony in her case because she had the proof that she needed to demonstrate that her case qualified as an “unconscionable disparity” scenario. The key to any family law case, whether the issue is alimony or something else, is an in-depth understanding of the law and a clear ability to apply it to the facts of your circumstances. Skilled Maryland family law attorney Anthony A. Fatemi helps clients to work toward positive outcomes in alimony, child support and a full spectrum of family law matters. To find out how we can help you, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

More blog posts:

A Maryland Wife Gets a Renewed Opportunity to Pursue Claim for Alimony and Attorney’s Fees, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, April 26, 2018

A Maryland Wife’s Lack of Proof of ‘Unconscionable Disparity’ of Income Allows Her Husband to Avoid an Indefinite Alimony Obligation, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, March 15, 2018


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