The High Hurdle Involved in Overturning a Divorce Judgment in Maryland

Recently, a Montgomery County husband sought to defeat via appeal a divorce judgment that gave his wife a monetary award of more than $20,000 and three years of rehabilitative alimony. The wife’s success in the divorce trial — and the husband’s unsuccessful appeal thereafter — is yet another reminder of the paramount importance of having a strong presentation prepared for trial, which is one reason why a knowledgeable Maryland divorce lawyer can provide essential aid in your divorce case.

The couple married in Ethiopia in 2003. After 16 years of marriage and three children, they separated in late 2019, filing for divorce in 2020.

At trial, the husband testified that he made $60,000 as a school bus driver and an Uber driver. He also received a $91,000 small business loan in 2020. He alleged that he had $6,800 in monthly expenses, resulting in a monthly deficit of nearly $1,800.

The wife testified that she made $12 per hour working at a beauty shop. She had worked 35 hours per week but later experienced a downturn in hours and generally earned $1,000 or less per month. She asserted that she had monthly expenses of $3,000.

The trial also revealed a bank account belonging to the husband that contained $46,000. He alleged that that sum represented proceeds from his small business loan (that he alone was responsible for repaying,) and was not marital property.

The court disagreed, concluding that the sum was a marital asset and awarding the wife a monetary payment of $23,000 (1/2 of the bank account.) The court also awarded the wife the use and possession of the marital home for a period of three years and ordered the husband to pay alimony in the form of making the mortgage payment on the marital home during those three years.

The Trial Court Judgment Must Be ‘Beyond the Fringe’

One of the key reasons a trial court’s divorce judgment is very difficult to overcome on appeal is because, once the divorce judgment is issued, an appeals court is generally going to uphold it, even if “the appellate court would not have made the same ruling.” Most divorce cases are intensely fact-driven and the trial court represents the finder of fact, including such things as each spouse’s wealth and income, expenses, and degree of culpability in the breakdown of the marriage. The appeals court will uphold the lower court’s judgment unless what the trial judge ordered was “well removed from any center mark… and beyond the fringe of what that court deems minimally acceptable.”

The appeals court looked at the outcome of this couple’s judgment and, while the ruling may have favored the wife, the trial judge’s opinion analyzed all the proper statutory factors and the award to the wife was not so far from the “center mark” as to be not “fair and equitable.” Therefore, the judgment stood.

Divorce is almost always a stressful time. Even as you’re dealing with great personal pain, your legal issues remain something you shouldn’t ignore. The skilled Maryland family law attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC are here to help you, providing experience-based advice and solutions, along with zealous advocacy to help you get a just outcome. Contact us today at 301-519-2801 or via our online form to set up your consultation.

Contact Information