Whether your spouse is making a claim for alimony, a claim that you dissipated assets, or both, it is important to know that there are certain expectations the law has of her, and certain things she must prove to the court, before she can be entitled to a ruling in her favor. In other words, there is an opportunity for you to oppose these legal arguments successfully by persuading the court that your ex-spouse has failed to meet her burden of proof. To be sure you have the resources you need on your side to win these kinds of legal battles, be sure you have an experienced Maryland alimony / spousal support attorney on your side.
In a divorce case, a claim for alimony is one of the most common issues that may arise, as a spouse who has historically earned less and continues to have a smaller income very commonly will seek a sum of alimony as part of the divorce judgment. While less common that alimony, a spouse’s “dissipation” of assets is another common claim. This means that one spouse allegedly used marital funds for the divorce for some purpose other than marital need. If, for example, you used marital assets to buy an expensive car for your child from a previous marriage, then that could constitute dissipation of assets.
The recent case of two spouses from Frederick County, M.B. and J.B., is helpful in shining light on certain requirements for each of these types of claims. J.B., the wife, sought rehabilitative alimony. For a spouse to be entitled to an award of rehabilitative alimony, she must demonstrate to the trial court that the award will facilitate her rehabilitating herself into a self-supporting divorced individual. Your spouse, if she contends that she needs additional education or professional training, must indicate exactly what education/training is needed and exactly how that would allow her to find “suitable employment.”
The burden of proof falls on the spouse making the allegation of dissipation
Similarly, a spouse seeking an award related to your alleged dissipation of assets has some very specific evidentiary requirements and, if they fall short, then you are not obligated to pay. It isn’t enough to establish that you spent marital funds for an improper purpose; rather, your spouse must demonstrate with admissible evidence that the value of the assets dissipated equals the dollar amount asserted.
For example, in M.B. and J.B.’s case, the wife sought a judicial finding that the husband had dissipated marital assets in the amount of $25,000. The husband admitted that he had spent marital funds on his girlfriend, but that the true amount was less than $25,000. The wife asked for certain financial records, but the husband did not provide them. Based on that failure to provide documentation, the judge made what the laws calls as “adverse inference.” That means that, as punishment, the court implies something to be true even in the absence of actual proof.
However, even if a judge makes an adverse inference against you in your dissipation of assets case, that alone isn’t enough to warrant a judicial finding that you dissipated assets. Maryland law says that the burden of proof in a dissipation case falls on the spouse alleging dissipation and an adverse inference, by itself, isn’t enough to trigger a finding against the spouse accused of dissipating assets. In J.B. and M.B.’s case, the trial court had nothing to support the finding that the husband dissipated $25,000 in marital assets other than the adverse inference. That wasn’t enough so there wasn’t enough to make that ruling.
What you can take away from this is that divorce cases have lots of “moving parts,” including acquiring the necessary evidence you need and understanding the relevant burdens of proof that Maryland law demands. In other words, you need a knowledgeable attorney on your side. For that kinds of reliable representation, contact Maryland alimony / spousal support attorney Anthony A. Fatemi, who has been effectively representing mothers, fathers, wives, husbands and others in Maryland divorce cases for many years. To learn more, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.