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“Unconscionable Disparity” in Income

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Whether you are the supporting spouse or the recipient spouse, you need to know how Maryland law applies to alimony and your specific case. In the past, Maryland regarded alimony or spousal support as a means to sustain the lifestyle of the recipient spouse when they were still married. Currently, the law views alimony as a means to help or assist the recipient spouse to become self-supporting. This view affects the circumstances whereby a spouse may receive indefinite alimony.

To show an example of this rule applying, we have the case of Simon and Tabitha. After ten years of marriage, their relationship went downhill and they decided to divorce. Their relationship took a turn for the worst when Simon was apprehended for theft. And it was not just any ordinary theft. Simon stole a million dollars worth of antique jewelry and collectible artifacts from his wife’s family.

After the trial, the court ordered that Simon pay child support and provide indefinite alimony to Tabitha. Simon filed an appeal, claiming the court failed to calculate properly and accurately child support and should not have awarded alimony to begin with.

Simon was able to win the appeal and was not obligated to provide indefinite alimony to Tabitha. This is due to the changes that have transpired in Maryland law on alimony. Since a 1980 Court of Appeals ruling, the view on alimony in Maryland transitioned from maintenance to rehabilitation. This means the law now is concerned for the capacity of the recipient spouse to become self-supporting as a single person rather than maintaining their standard of living while married. In 1992, the Court of Appeals stated that its main concern is to aid the transition of the parties from joint married status with all its privileges to single people living separately and independently.

Because of this new principle, the law rarely favors or grants indefinite alimony and supports a fixed and limited amount of alimony instead. The law rules in favor of indefinite alimony when the recipient spouse shows proof that they cannot be expected to be self-supporting because of age, illness, disability, and infirmity. If the recipient spouse becomes self-supporting, the respective incomes of the divorced couple remain unconscionably disparate.

Regarding Simon and Tabitha’s case, Tabitha did not claim to be too old, sick, or disabled. There just remained a wide or huge disparity between the husband’s income and the wife’s income. If the recipient spouse is making $60,000 annually while the supporting spouse is earning a million dollars every year, there is an unconscionable disparity between the incomes and an indefinite alimony is only appropriate. The issue in this case, however, is that Tabitha failed to show proof of disparity in case after she became self-supporting. Because there was no proof offered or demonstrated, the judge could not rule in favor of indefinite alimony.

The attorneys at Petrelli Previtera are experts in the field of divorce and alimony. We are here to help you achieve a favorable outcome by creating a unique strategy for your specific case. Schedule your consultation with one of our highly-qualified family law attorneys today to get started.

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