Indefinite Alimony When Income is Inconsistent

In the Walter vs. Walter case, 956 A.2d 255, 181 Md. App. 273 (2008), here, the parties have a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing. The parties were married in 1979. The parties separated in 2005. The Wife moved in a two-bedroom house. The Husband remained in the family home. Both children were emancipated because one reached 18 years old and the other reached 23 years old. The 23 year old lived on her own while the 18 year old lived in the family home with her father.

Since the parties’ separated, the Husband had paid the insurance, taxes, and mortgage on the family home and expenses associated with it. The total cost was $2,534.97 per month. For close to a year, he sent his wife $500.00 per month. The parties tried to do an amicable divorce through counsel.

On November 2006, the case went to a merits hearing on the issues of alimony, limited divorce, and attorneys’ fees. The Judge in Frederick County Circuit Court awarded the Wife indefinite alimony of $1,500.00 per month and alimony arrearage of $10,500 entered as Judgment against Husband.

The Alimony award was challenged in the Appellate Court. Section 11-106(b) of the Family Law Article in determining whether the Court to make an award of alimony. The Circuit Court is required to look at all the elements necessary for an equitable and fair award.

Since the enactment of the Alimony Act, Alimony can be indefinite term or fixed term. The court has the power to grant indefinite alimony in exceptional cases when one of two cases shown in part (c) in section 11-106.

The Frederick County Circuit Court made a finding to section 11-106(b) factors. The Husband’s arguments are for factors nine and eleven. The Husband contended that he does not have the finances to take care of his own needs and pay the alimony to his Wife.

Husband’s income was variable and not always sufficient to meet the family’s needs. The court imputed the Husband’s income to be around $56,000.00 per year. The Wife’s income was $21,400.00 per year. It was undisputed that the Husband paid about $2,500.00 per month for taxes, debt, and maintaining the home. The parties had been married 27 years where the health was good.

The appellate court stated the Husband’s income of $56,000.00 per year was clearly erroneous. The appellate further address that he does not support his ability to pay alimony of $1,500.00 given his actual income. In order to support himself, the Husband’s income came from his IRA, a $3,000.00 home equity loan, and a gift of $10,000 from Husband’s father.

The Husband argued that the court clearly erred that his potential income was $100,000 to $120,000 per year. Also, the Wife not should be awarded indefinite alimony. The appellate court agreed with the Husband’s argument. The Frederick Circuit Court relied on to impute the Husband’s income to $30,000 per year is not supported by evidence that was placed on the record. The appellant court remanded this case back to the Frederick Circuit Court for more proceedings.

The Husband argued that the court erred in granting indefinite alimony in event of a limited divorce. All issues of alimony and length of term must be determined de novo on the occurrence of an Absolute Divorce.

Divorce is a creature of statute in Maryland. Before 1841, the power to grant a divorce belonged to the General Assembly.

A party can terminate alimony under FL section 11-108 which that party bears the burden of proof to terminate. A party can modify alimony under FL section 11-107 which that party bears the burden to modify. In short, the alimony award shall remain for that amount for the time award which include for indefinite term unless the payor request and prove to modify or terminate. It would be illogical for an indefinite alimony incident to a limited divorce to continue after an absolute divorce if the payee did not request afterwards.

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