In the sphere of law, dealing with absolutes is ill-advised. That is why, oftentimes, if you ask your attorney about legal issues, they will look at you squarely in the eye and answer, “It depends.” Regarding alimony issues, a supporting spouse could qualify for a change or modification in spousal support and this usually includes a retroactive imposition. We had a case of a husband who qualified for a suspension of his alimony duties. However, without a retroactive modification, he could not meet his obligations due to unwise spending habits after losing his job.
Rupert and Madeleine were a Maryland couple. After divorcing, they agreed to a marital settlement in 2012. It included the terms that Rupert would pay Madeleine alimony for a fixed and limited amount of time.
There are situations in which you can file for a modification or change in your alimony status with a court. To do this, you will need to show proof and demonstrate to the judge that you have suffered a tangible and significant circumstantial change in your life. The law provides divorcing couples the right to include in their marital settlement agreement terms and conditions that qualifies or renders the spouse eligible to seek changes or modifications to their alimony status.
Rupert and Madeleine had agreed in their settlement that Rupert could qualify to seek modification in alimony in the event he suffers a 25% or greater decrease in his gross yearly income. By the end of 2012, Rupert, indeed, encountered a setback in his employment. He lost his job. After some months since he went to court, it granted him a suspension privilege of his alimony duties to Madeleine. However, the judge did not rule in his favor regarding extending the suspension privilege retroactively. Rupert failed to win his appeal. The law grants the court system the judicious right or discretion to apply modification of alimony retroactively.
This is rooted in the principle that the event that initiated or caused the modification occurred in the past. It states that the effective date of the modification begins on the date of the causative setback or occurrence. The law also permits the court system not to rule in favor of a retroactive modification if the supporting spouse was able to maintain their capacity to fulfill their alimony obligations.
In this case, Madeleine was able to prove that Rupert was excessive or extravagant in his spending, even after losing his job. He took a trip to several out-of-state destinations to play sports and gamble. He also vacationed constantly with his girlfriend, stayed at five-star hotels, and indulged in elaborate parties and dinners. A few months into 2013, Rupert charged more than $15,000 to his credit card. In light of this, the appeals court supported the decision of the lower court that Madeleine’s proof demonstrated that Rupert was able to maintain the capacity to fulfill his alimony duties, despite him losing his job. Thus, in this particular case, the circumstances did not require or merit a retroactive modification of alimony duties.
In legal matters, it is crucial not to assume that there are clear-cut, fast, and absolute outcomes to any case. The law and its navigation is a complex case, and the expertise of a qualified and licensed lawyer is highly recommended.
If you are in need of assistance in your alimony case, schedule a consultation with one of our family attorneys today.