Indefinite Alimony Case

Indefinite Alimony Case – Whittington vs. Whittington 2007

When the Husband was a State employee, Husband earned $35,000 per year. In 1987, his beginning salary was $42,000 at Toyota. The Husband has received several raises with Toyota. When the trial began, he earned $149,000 per year. His Wife was employed with Whitmore Printing earning $25,000 per year prior to and during the marriage. The Wife moved on for Pro Graphic as a salaried employee where she worked at that job full-time until 1999. Her starting salary was $25,000 per year and her highest salary was $38,000 per year in 1997. Her salary was $37,000 per year for the years of 1998 and 1999.

The Wife did freelance work for Taylor & Francis in 2005 where the Wife earned an average of $2,400 per month or $28,800 per year. She only worked for about 30 to 35 hours per work and worked from home. The Wife testified it was her choice. A vocational expert testified if the wife worked full-time $35,000 per year. The Wife testified that her boss owned Sebastian Design Works (SDW) which she was the only employee. Her boss made payments for Christina’s bills and expenses for her boss’s account. The Wife testified that her and her boss shared all of their expenses from the time began living together.

The Wife said that in her last year of her marriage that the parties lacked the emotional connection that must exist in a “marriage type relationship.” The Wife admitted that she was in a sexual type of relationship with her boss and they had the emotional connection where they share their bills and finances. The Wife and her boss have no plans to get married, and she does not see herself marrying someone else.

The parties testified that while married they lived comfortably. They went on vacations twice per year. They had a nice home and cars. They went to many sporting events having season tickets. They also went to shows. They had a lot of disposable income.

The Wife compared her standard of living after the separation. She worries about paying bills. She does not have the financial freedom.

The trial court awarded the Wife $1,500.00 per month as indefinite alimony. This case appealed by the Husband arguing that the trial court erred and abused its discretion in awarding indefinite alimony as well as its amount. His contended that the trial judge did not make a finding that the standards of living of the parties would be unconscionably disparate, but said his wife standard of living would be much lower than it had been as indefinite alimony was required. He also argued that the trial court did not have the power to make such an award when they are in a married type of relationship with another person. Lastly, he contended that was not reasonable based on her expenses.

The Alimony Act in 1980 in Maryland favors rehabilitative alimony or fixed term alimony instead of indefinite alimony. This preference for rehabilitative alimony is not to provide a lifetime pension, but to ease the transition for the parties from the joint married state to new state as single person living independently and apart.

However, they are two exceptional circumstances in which a court may award indefinite alimony. One, where the trial court can award indefinite alimony if due to disability, infirmity, illness, or age, and second the party seeking alimony cannot be expected to be self-supporting in the future. These two circumstances are there to protect the spouse who is less financially secure from too harsh a life once single again.

The court should only look at the “unconscionable disparity” which is at issue in this exception. This is a question of fact whether the parities after post-divorce will be unconscionably disparate.

The disparity after divorce standards of living for the parties must work a gross inequity in order for it to be unconscionable.

The appellate court found the trial court alimony award must be vacated because the appellate court did not exercise its discretion in determining to award indefinite alimony.

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