Late last year, Washingtonian covered a trend regarding alimony that’s on the rise in Maryland, D.C., and Northern Virginia: divorces where higher-earning wives leave owing alimony to their husbands. The piece is a useful reminder that anyone (husband or wife) can potentially be ordered to pay alimony in Maryland and that ways (such as prenuptial agreements) exist to help avoid part or all of the horror of an unexpectedly unfavorable divorce judgment. Whether you’re negotiating a prenup or litigating alimony, make sure you have a knowledgeable Maryland family law lawyer on your side to fight for a fair outcome.
Many of the ex-wives in the Washingtonian piece expressed deep anger and resentment about paying alimony to ex-husbands who they viewed as insufficiently industrious. One wife described her husband as someone whom she “begged” to find a job, always without success. Another expressed resentment about owing alimony from a marriage where she allegedly earned the bulk of the family’s income and also bore the lion’s share of responsibility for domestic tasks.
One wife complained, “It’s not just as simple as saying, ‘Because men pay it, women should pay it, too.'”
The truth is that it’s not that simple… though probably not in the way that this ex-wife meant it. Maryland law has a list of fully one dozen different factors courts can consider when making a judgment on alimony. These include the ability of the spouse seeking alimony to be (or become) self-supporting, the time necessary to achieve self-sufficiency, the couple’s standard of living during the marriage, and the contributions — both monetary and non-monetary — each spouse made to the marriage.
If your ex-spouse has the knowledge, skills, and education to earn a living, but has remained unemployed to avoid paying you alimony (or to maximize the amount you owe him,) then you can make that argument to the trial court. It’s called voluntary impoverishment and, if proven, it’s something the judge possibly can consider in ruling on alimony.
Also, as noted above, the court will consider non-monetary contributions, and that includes handling domestic responsibilities. However, if the other factors point toward you deserving an award of alimony, the judge probably isn’t going to deny you that award solely because your ex-wife testified in court that you never did the dishes or folded the laundry.
How a Good Prenuptial Agreement Can Help Give You Peace of Mind
Lastly, but far from least in terms of importance, the Washingtonian piece indirectly contained some very good advice. The wife who bemoaned making triple what her ex-husband did while also allegedly handling the vast majority of household duties, had remarried by the time the author published her piece. That interviewee and her new husband were both payors of alimony from their previous divorces. Before the two married, they set up a prenuptial agreement.
The two spouses-to-be approached the conversation — and the subsequent prenup — in a very matter-of-fact way. “I don’t think couples should make it a big deal… You just get it done,” the woman advised. Her explanation: “I love my husband-to-be, and I’m so happy, but I’m not going to let myself get in this situation again.”
Prenuptial agreements are a great way to take exactly that sort of control. Many of the women interviewed in the piece experienced fury fueled by the shock of an unexpected divorce outcome. With a properly drafted and executed prenuptial agreement, you can avoid many of those kinds of horrifying surprises should your next marriage not last “’til death do us part.”
Whether you’re planning to get married (and need advice and counsel about a prenuptial agreement) or you’re planning to get divorced (and need advice and counsel about alimony, equitable distribution, or other parts of the divorce process,) you need a legal advocate upon whom you can confidently rely. Look to the Maryland family law attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC, where we confidently provide clients with knowledgeable, experience-driven advice and zealous advocacy both inside court and outside. Contact us today at 301-519-2801 or via our online form to set up your consultation.