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News and comments about divorce, child support, child custody, alimony, equitable property distribution, father’s rights, mother’s rights, family law, laws on divorce and other legal information in Maryland.

Archive for March, 2011

Two Exceptions for Permanent Alimony

Monday, March 28th, 2011

In the Holston case, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals explained the general rule that alimony is for the purpose of helping a dependent spouse become self supporting so it should be for a limited time and not permanent in most cases.  But there are some circumstances when that may be impractical or unfair.  The exceptions are in Article 16, § 1(c)(1) of the Maryland Code, which provides:

The court may award alimony for an indefinite period when it finds as a fact that:

(i) the party seeking alimony, by reason of age, illness, infirmity, or disability, cannot reasonably be expected to make substantial progress toward becoming self-supporting; or

(ii) Even after the receiving party will have made as much progress toward self-support as can reasonably be expected, the respective standards of living of the two parties will be unconscionably disparate.

The Court of Appeals found from the evidence that the trial court’s award of alimony for three years would have left Mrs. Holston with a standard of living greatly below that enjoyed during the marriage and unconscionably disparate from the standard of living available to Dr. Holston.  Therefore the judges remanded the case to the lower court with instructions to grant Mrs. Holston permanent alimony.

Holston v. Holston, 58 Md. App. 308; 473 A.2d 459 (1984),  Cert. Denied (1984).

Alimony Is Not a Lifetime Pension

Friday, March 25th, 2011

When Eileen Holston appealed her alimony award of $150 a week for three years, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals said that alimony in Maryland used to be for the joint lives of the parties so that the dependent spouse could maintain the same standard of living as when married.  That changed with the enactment of Md.Ann. Code Art. 16, § 1 in 1980, so that the principal function of alimony is now rehabilitation.  The Court said:

“Thus, when awarding alimony, the chancellor is required to consider not only those factors relating to the financial situation, age and health of each party, their standards of living, the duration of marriage and the contribution of each party to its well being but also the ability of the party seeking alimony to be wholly or partially self-supporting and the time deemed necessary for the party seeking alimony to gain sufficient education or training to enable that party to find suitable employment. It is apparent, therefore, that the concept of  alimony as a lifetime pension enabling the financially dependent spouse to maintain an accustomed standard of living has largely been superseded by the concept that the economically dependent spouse should be required to become self-supporting, even though that might result in a reduced standard of living.”

There are some exceptions, however, and I’ll discuss those next week.

The Holston Alimony Case

Friday, March 18th, 2011

When Eileen and Alvan Holston were married in 1967, she was a secretary making $5,000 a year and he was in dental school.  They had five children together.  When they got divorced in 1982, Eileen had not worked for years and Alvin was a dentist and a professor making over $86,000 a year.

The chancellor awarded Eileen alimony for three years at a rate of $ 150 per week in order “to allow her the opportunity to either go back and complete her education, since she did not finish college . . . or to train herself or retrain herself for appropriate work,  because ultimately there is no question she has to provide for herself .”

Eileen appealed, claiming she should have been awarded indefinite alimony.  Let me know how you think this case turned out in the comments section.  Next week, I’ll tell you what happened.

Defending the Prenup (Time)

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

After full disclosure, the second most important element to fortify your prenup is time.  That is the parties must have adequate time before the wedding to understand, negotiate and consider the agreement they are signing.

If the prenup is presented the day before the wedding, after the invitations have been mailed, the wedding gown paid for, and the banquet hall rented, it could be challenged on the basis of duress.  The challenger might say something like, “I didn’t understand it and I didn’t read it.  I just signed it so the wedding could go on.”

The way to defend a prenup from this challenge is to start negotiating long before the wedding.  Keep drafts and other documents.  Place a clause in the agreement that says the parties have negotiated the terms for a long time before the wedding, each has consulted a lawyer or has had an opportunity to do so, each understands the provisions of the agreement, and neither feels any duress or pressure to sign.

Notes from the Universe

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

I am in favor of anything that lifts people’s spirits during the personal crises of separation and divorce.  That’s why I like Notes from the Universe.  It is  the brain-child of Mike Dooley.  Thanks to Carley Glazier for telling me about this.

It’s free at Tut.com.  You just answer a couple of questions, and  then you will start receiving a personalized note from the universe every weekday morning.  They are clever, funny, profound and empowering.  Here’s a sample:

The best way to find “love,” which, incidentally, is just as true for finding money, is to focus less on these by-products of a life well lived and more on a life well lived.

Simple is as simple does.

The Universe

PS:  Dance life’s dance, today, without preconditions.

Divorce Quotes

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Chance rules the marriages of women; some I see turn out well, others ill, amongst mankind.  — Euripides, Electra (413 B.C.)

The Bulletproof Prenup

Friday, March 11th, 2011

First the bad news.  There is no such thing as a bulletproof premarital agreement.  It is a fantasy that clients have based on the movies and tv.  No one can guarantee your prenup will hold up in court or that some judge somewhere will set it aside.

Now the good news.  There are some things you can do to improve your chances that your prenup will withstand a challenge.  Among the first and most important of these is disclosure.

Disclosure means that each party reveals their financial condition, that is income and wealth, to the other.  The way to evidence this is to attach detailed financial statements to the prenup.  If you fail to make a complete disclosure, your spouse may say he or she never would have agreed to the terms of the prenup if they had known your true financial condition.  And this might be grounds for a court to invalidate the prenup.

Conflict Resolution System

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

I always say a couple with a good conflict resolution system can survive the largest problems in a relationship, while a couple with no conflict resolution system can fall apart over the most minor disputes.

Here’s a story from CNN.com about a bickering couple who found a way to resolve their conflicts on the verge of divorce.  Akilah and Kris Richards, both in their early 30s, married eight years ago.  They have two young children.

“I liked that Kris was really laid-back,” says Akilah, “and he appreciated my big personality.”  But shortly after their marriage, these qualities started to become sources of irritation and they began arguing almost constantly.

Things came to a head one night when Kris gave their daughter a stern reprimand for climbing onto a stage during a performance.  Akilah angrily told Kris he was overreacting.  They began to fight and Akilah announced she wanted a divorce.

They agreed to a rehearsal of what they would say to their chlidren.  They found themselves discussing instead their different styles of communication.  Kris felt like Akilah was cross-examining him.  Akilah felt Kris would withdraw instead of talking to her.  They agreed to set aside some time to think things through before trying to resolve them.

“A lot of people have a misconception that marriage is the culmination of a relationship,” says Kris. “Far from it. Marriage is a constant process of finding the best possible way to connect with another person–and that’s what Akilah and I want from each other.”

 
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