Alimony With a High Earning Spouse

This is the Reynolds vs. Reynolds case. The citation number is 216 Md. 205, 85 A.3d 350 (2014). The parties graduated from Yale Law School. In 1989, the parties married and 3 children were born to the marriage. When the Wife quit her job, she was earning $120,000 a year. Husband worked and earned over $800,000 a year in private practice by the year 2010. The parties had an affluent lifestyle with a home valued at $2,000,000 along with dinners out, private school for the children, two international vacations, household help, substantial retirement savings, new model foreign cars, and charitable donations to their alma maters.

The parties separated in 2010. When the parties separated, the Husband rented a home with 4 bedrooms at $5,000.00 a month. Wife bought a million-and-a-half home with her father, and her father provided her with over $100,000. Wife received dividend income and other income.

Wife filed for absolute divorce in 2010 and the husband did the same. The parties agreed on custody. The Wife dismissed her original suit and filed again seeking child support, monetary award, alimony, and other relief. The Wife needed surgery for her heart and two legs. The Wife admitted that she did not work due to the divorce proceedings.

The Wife earned about $70,000 a year from her 2011 federal tax returns. The equity court considered her expenses such as vacation, mortgage, housekeeping, and retirement which were reasonable to the equity court. There are expenses such as therapy of $200 a month and therapy of $193 a month which the court took as reasonable. The court finds that the Wife’s total expenses were $15k a month having a deficit of $10k a month.

The Husband’s net income was $46k a month. The Husband’s expenses were $15k a month with an additional income of $31k a month. The wife used alimony statute from section 11-106(c) of the family law statue seeking alimony indefinitely. Husband argued that Wife can potentially earn between $30k-$40k a year. However, at one time she earned three to four times as much. From the evidence, she had not practiced law for two decades and is suffering from health problems and old age which are factors that limit her ability to be employable. Even with the Husband’s argument, self-sufficiency does not foreclose her ability to be awarded indefinite alimony. The trial court declined to impute an income to the Wife.

The Husband argued that the court did not include her income from the Wife’s family business which she partly owns and was about $8,000 a year. The Wife argued that her tax return in 2011 shows that $63k represented as income. Also, the Husband contended that the court should have used the gift that was given by her father. However, the Father is not willing on a regular basis to support the gifts, and he is unwilling or unable to continue providing gifts to her. Thus, the court did not find that the gifts show a future income to the daughter.

The Husband argued that the lower court erred ruling that Wife’s retirement expenses, therapy, mortgage, housekeeping, and vacation were within reason for alimony. Husband contended that a four-bedroom house with housekeeping service is not necessary for an unemployed single person. However, the appellate court does agree but further address to remove unconscionable disparity between the parties that awarding indefinite alimony is proper in that case.

The Husband argued that the Wife used the funds from the trust accounts of the children to use it as down payment towards a house where these proceeds are marital property. According to the court, if the Husband finds the Wife’s action improper, then the children can bring a lawsuit against the mother for breach of fiduciary duty.

In the Wife’s cross appeal, the Husband was paid $70k in a distribution from his law firm where he used that as attorney fees. The court ruled that these funds are not present and are not dissipated.

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