In Lee v. Andochick, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reversed a $10,000 a month alimony award because the numbers just didn’t add up.  But the Court also found the trial judge erred in awarding indefinite alimony on the basis of unconscionable disparity.

Section 11-106(c)(2) of the Maryland Family Law Article provides that alimony may be awarded indefinitely if the court finds that even after the party seeking alimony will have made as much progress of  becoming self-supporting as can reasonably be expected, the respective standards of living of the parties will be unconscionably disparate.

Mr. Lee made $1,760,282 and Dr. Andochick made $267,000 in 2006.  But the appeals court said a disparity in income is not the same as a disparity in standards of living.

Dr. Andochick, the court said, did not explain or prove how her standard of living would be unconscionably disparate from Mr.  Lee’s if she did not receive alimony.  The court also said the trial judge did not discuss his analysis of why the respective standards of living of the parties would be unconscionably disparate.  Therefore the case was sent back to the trial judge to make further findings.

Money will bring a whole new set of problems into your life if you experience a divorce.

If you think that money buys happiness, or a little more money will solve your problems, I can assure you that more money will bring a whole new set of problems into your life if you experience a divorce.

Just ask Keith Lee and Lori Andochick of Frederick County, Maryland, who married in 1993, separated in 2004 and were divorced in 2007.   As a partner in the investment firm of Brown Capital of Baltimore, Maryland, Mr. Lee made $1,760,282 in 2006.  Dr. Andochick, a dentist, made $267,000 that year.

The Court awarded Dr. Andochick $10,000 a month in spousal support, $15,000 a month in child support for their two children, $2,200 a month in other costs for the children, a monetary award payable at $250,000 a year for five years and attorney fees.

Mr. Lee appealed the alimony award.  The Court of Special Appeals reversed the case.  The Court calculated the annual numbers on Mr. Lee like this:

Gross Income                         $1,760.282
Less Taxes                                ($762,282)
Less Debt Obligations             ($636,588)
Child Support and Alimony*  ($278,400)
Monetary Award                      ($250,000)

Total                                         ($166,988)

In other words, Mr. Lee would have had to borrow about $167,000 a year just to make ends meet and even then he would have nothing left over for food and personal expenses.  The Appeals Court found that the trial judge “did not do the math.”

* see comments

On the twelfth day of Christmas
The Good Court gave to me:
Twelve Years of Alimony
Eleven Grand for Attorneys
Ten Shares of Stock
Nine Options Vesting
Eight Years of Child Support
Seven Rooms of Furniture
Six Sets of China
Five Golden Rings
Four QDRO’s
Three Bank Accounts
Two Used Cars
and Half of the Remaining Equity.

This post was contributed by Kelly Kilpatrick, who writes on the subject of a police detective. She invites your feedback at kellykilpatrick24 at gmail dot com.

If you’ve seen someone go through a bitter divorce and the even uglier child custody battle, you’ll know that the courts are not generally favorable towards the father, especially when it comes to securing custody of the child. Some fathers are happy to wash their hands of the responsibility of child rearing, but others are left devastated when their spouse gets sole custody and they’re asked to pay child support and alimony too in some cases.

Most judges are predisposed to awarding custody to the mother, simply because she is the one who’s had more time with the child, especially if he or she is pretty young. When you’re on the verge of a divorce, it’s hard to be rational and think before you act. But when it comes to your children and the fact that a court is going to tell you how you’re going to be allowed to relate to them for the rest of your life, you must put your emotions aside and use your head alone to save yourself a whole lot of trouble.

The first thing to do is to make your divorce amicable; I know it’s the hardest thing to do, part on good terms with someone you don’t want to live the rest of your life with. But if you share children, it’s the mature thing to do. This has a host of advantages, especially to you as the father. You don’t say things you may regret later, things that if overheard by your youngster, could end up harming your reputation in his or her eyes. Remember, your child is likely to be influenced by your spouse, so it’s best to remain on cordial terms with her.

A friendly divorce also allows you both to save a ton of money – you can bypass the lawyers altogether, seek joint custody of your children and reach a mutually satisfactory amount for child support and alimony. Better still, you remain on good terms so that your children feel secure even though you’re divorced.

I know I’m painting a pretty rosy picture where your spouse agrees to an amicable divorce and joint custody, but it’s worth a try, for yourself and your children. Rather than assume that your spouse would never go along with your suggestions, and that she is out to hurt you, be gracious enough to give in once in a while. After all, you were in love with the woman once, and by being the bigger person, you save yourself an acrimonious divorce proceeding and a lot of money in the process. Your spouse may also feel the need to relent once she sees how reasonable you’re being, so go ahead, give it a try. You’ve nothing to lose (other than what you will even if you don’t try) if it doesn’t work out, and everything to gain if it does.

?Which strategies do people and their lawyers employ during divorces? There are only two social strategies that human beings use, according to Herb Guggenheim writing for CapitalM, the local Mensa newsletter. Those strategies are:

1. Reciprocal Altruism.

This approach is based on the idea that if you do kind things for other people, they will do kind things for you. It is the psychological equivalent of the Golden Rule, that is do unto others that which you would have them do unto you. It is the American cliche, “You pat my back and I’ll pat yours.” It is the French saying, “You send the elevator up to me and I’ll send it back down to you.”

2. I’m Only in It for Myself.

These people see the world as a hostile place. It is dog eat dog. Only the strong survive. These social Darwinist believe that while the inferior, weak people are busy being nice to each other, they will swoop down and take what they want, when they want, no matter what the consequences may be.

If both parties use Reciprocal Altruism, the divorce can be settled rather handily. If both are using I’m Only in It for Myself, then it seems they are destined to have a long and costly litigation. What happens if they are each using a different strategy? It seems to me, the I’m Only in It for Myself strategist will walk all over the Reciprocal Altruism strategist and end up with the better part of the marital estate. Guggenheim says, that while he can sleep better at night as a Reciprocal Altruist, it is his observation that people who take what they want seldom suffer for it.

Perhaps the best strategy is a blend of both. Focus on what you want and ask for it. Be polite but firm in the asking — an iron fist in a velvet glove. Like the Eagle on the Quarter, hold out the olive branch in one hand (settlement) and the arrows in the other (litigation). Then your spouse can decide which strategy it is going to be.

It all started over dinner at the Isla Del Sol yachting club in St. Petersburg, Florida, according to John Barry at TampaBay.Com. Bob Luzenberg was having dinner with his second wife. Marlene Forand was their waiter. Bob came back a few nights later without the wife, said he was soon to be divorced. He told her he was an inventor with patents. Marlene was a licensed practical nurse, but she said if he could make something, she could market it. Bob Luzenberg and Marlene Forand got married in 1984.

Their businesses together prospered, but their marriage did not. Their divorce started in 1995. They’re still fighting over the money in court. They’ve run through 10 judges and 16 lawyers and their courthouse files fill 13 volumes.

The Florida divorce judge ordered Bob to pay Marlene a lump sum of $240,000, permanent alimony of $6,000 a month, medical insurance of $500 a month, 29 percent of Bob’s interest in a company called World Drink USA, and half of Bob’s interest in seven other companies, half interest in all of Bob’s patents, and all of Marlene’s attorney’s fees.

But Bob moved to Alabama, and when Marlene finally got him to pay over $200,000 in 2003, she netted only $80,000 after attorney fees. She has now fired her attorneys and is representing herself.

As Marlene has discovered the hard way, getting a judgment is not the same as getting the cash. You become a judgment creditor and can use the tools of the court to collect your judgment like attachment of assets and garnishment of wages. But if your spouse is unemployed or without assets, he is said to be judgment proof and you can’t collect. I wish I had a nickel for every noncollectable judgment in my file cabinet.

It is still relatively difficult for an able bodied man in a full-employment economy to get alimony in a divorce. But it is no longer impossible.

While the number of men receiving alimony is only four percent nationally, that percentage is up from zero thanks to equal rights, high income women in the work force and more dads staying home and taking care of the children.

Although many men are embarrassed to even ask for alimony in their divorces, according to CNN, more financially independent women are willing to pay it to avoid conflict.

The IRS said audits for last year rose 7 percent for individuals, 14 percent for taxpayers earning more than $100,000, and 30 percent for those making $200,000 or more. Millionaires had a 1 in 11 chance of losing at audit roulette.

A test to see if divorced couples were correctly reporting alimony in California concluded that 40 percent of the taxpayers flubbed it, usually over several years. On average, they owed the state an additional $5,800 — and that was just tab before the IRS was notified.

Auditors commonly found recipients of alimony and family support failed to report it as income. Meanwhile, the spouses cutting checks often wrote off alimony that the divorce decree stipulated was neither taxable nor deductible, or erroneously deducted child-support payments.

Alimony in Maryland terminates automatically on remarriage, but not on cohabitation, unless the parties agree otherwise. There are various ways to “agree otherwise”. Here are some sample cohabitation clauses from the case of Gordon v. Gordon, 342 Md. 294, 301-303 (Md. 1996).

1. This is the clause that was in dispute in the Gordon case:

Husband shall pay to Wife as alimony the sum of $ 6,000 per month in advance, commencing on the first day of December, and continuing on the first day of each and every month thereafter. The said payments shall terminate upon the death of the Husband, the death of the Wife, the remarriage of the Wife, or at such time as the Wife reaches the age of 59 1/2, whichever first occurs. The said payments shall also terminate in the event the Wife resides with any unrelated man without the benefit of marriage for a period continuing for beyond sixty (60) consecutive days.

2. This clause defines remarriage to include cohabitation:

For the purposes of this agreement the term “remarriage of the Wife” shall be defined as either a ceremonial civil or religious marriage or a situation whereby the wife habitually and continuously resides with another man without benefit of a marriage ceremony for a period of 120 days consecutively or 120 days cumulatively within a sixteen-month period.

S. SCHLISSEL, 2 SEPARATION AGREEMENTS AND MARITAL CONTRACTS § 19.28, at 511 (1986 & 1992 Cum. Supp.).

3. Cohabitation as a separate terminating event:

The payor shall pay to the payee, for her support, maintenance, or alimony, the sum of dollars per week, until the death of either party, or the remarriage of the payee, or the payee’s cohabitation with another person, whichever event shall first occur. For the purposes of this Agreement, the term “cohabitation” includes any shared occupancy of a dwelling, whether or not the occupants engage in sexual relations.

A. LINDEY & L. PARLEY, 1 LINDEY ON SEPARATION AGREEMENTS AND ANTENUPTIAL CONTRACTS 15A-6 (1995) (Form 15A.05) (emphasis added). See also S. GREEN & J. LONG, MARRIAGE AND FAMILY LAW AGREEMENTS 372-73 (1984 & 1994 Cum. Supp.) (Appendix 3).

4. Another example:

Support shall continue until the death of the husband, the death of the Wife, her remarriage, or her cohabitation with another person with whom she has a romantic relationship.

5. Requiring a financial relationship between the cohabitants as a condition for terminating support:

The Wife shall also be deemed to have remarried for the purpose of this Article if she shall live with an unrelated adult male to whom she is not legally married in the same abode in a situation where the parties are, in effect, living as Husband and Wife and the unrelated adult male should be supporting, or contributing to the support, of the Wife.

SCHLISSEL, supra, § 19.31, at 513.

6. Requiring a common residence for a specific length of time to establish cohabitation:

Remarriage shall be defined so as to include her cohabitation or residing with an unrelated male for either thirty (30) consecutive days or ninety (90) days in any one hundred eighty (180) day period.

TURNBULL & WASE, supra, at 256.

Even when you have a cohabitation clause, disputes can still arise. In the Gordon case, the wife lived with another man for 60 days, but the court of appeals sent the case back to the trial court to determine if that was really cohabitation or not.