Recently we had a case in which a husband appealed the alimony of his ex-wife, which granted her an indefinite five-figure-per-month amount even after she was earning a six-figure salary. However, the indefinite alimony stayed on. It turned out that even if the ex-wife was already earning a significant amount of money, the disparity between the ex-couple’s income was so vast that suspending the indefinite alimony award would render the disparity unconscionable.
Marcus was a very prominent and successful neurosurgeon, making millions annually. Amelia, on the other hand, was the senior director of operations in a mega-consulting firm. She earned around $125,000 per year.
Amelia filed for a divorce after seven and a half years of marriage. A major issue during their divorce was the subject of alimony or spousal support. The court ordered Marcus to pay Amelia an indefinite alimony amounting to $13,500. The trial court deemed it appropriate to grant Amelia the indefinite alimony award to maintain her standard of living, which would be impossible without the alimony.
Marcus, in turn, challenged the ruling and appealed the case, stating that in a couple of years or so, Amelia would be able to become self-supporting. Thus, awarding indefinite alimony would be inappropriate.
The ex-husband, however, lost his appeal because when determining the amount and duration of alimony, the court does not depend alone on whether a recipient spouse is self-supporting or not. A self-supporting spouse can still be entitled or eligible to an award of an indefinite alimony. Amelia’s income made up for about 12.5% of the household income. As a married couple, they lived in a very expensive Tudor-style family home, took lavish vacations, hired a nanny, collected and drove luxury cars, and were prominent members of different country clubs. It would be nearly impossible to keep up with this kind of lifestyle without the award of an indefinite alimony.
Add to it another issue or concern during the divorce was Marcus’s infidelity or extramarital affair. He argued that the alimony was an unfair punitive measure dealt to him because of his affair that led to their estrangement and separation.
In Maryland, you only need to prove that the marriage is beyond repair and reconciliation to file for a divorce. You do not need to claim abandonment, adultery, physical or mental cruelty, or the like to have a ground for a divorce. Maryland is a no-fault divorce state. However, even in no-fault divorce states like Maryland, the law still allows the court system the discretion and privilege to consider accounts of infidelity or marital misconduct to carry out decisions fairly such as in granting alimony.
The court held on to its decision and did not consider the alimony award as punitive, but only as one of the factors or evidence for them to arrive with a decision. Also, it considered particularly the excessively wide disparity between the ex-couple’s income, their lifestyle during the marriage, and the standard of living that the wife will be facing after the marriage without alimony. In the overall picture, the court also considered the event of the extramarital affair as figurative in the alimony award.
The law in Maryland usually is in favor of temporary alimony instead of indefinite alimony. There are some cases ‘though that the court deems deserving of granting indefinite alimony. Building a strong case using credible evidence and a sound legal argument to achieve a favorable outcome is a must, especially when you are working your way around a legal rule that may render the outcome of your choice out of reach.
There are many factors that go into determining alimony and if there is a cause for modification. If you have any questions about how your divorce will affect your future finances, give us a call today so we can help.