Dr. Murray Malin, an anesthesiologist, was 38 when he met Marcie Minenberg, 27. She went to law school but did not pass the bar exam and was working in a jewelry store. They wed, had one child, and divorced in Maryland after three years of marriage. At the time of trial, Murray had stopped practicing as a doctor due to a drug addiction.

The trial court awarded Marcie alimony of $3,500 a month, non-taxable to her, for five years. Murray appealed arguing that (1) the court could not award alimony that was non-taxable and (2) the court could not award alimony for longer than the marriage.

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals agreed with Murray that the only alimony a court can award is taxable alimony. Parties can make alimony non-taxable, but only by agreement.

As for the length of alimony, the appeals court said there was no law against alimony that lasts longer than the marriage.

Malin v. Mininberg, 153 Md. App. 358, 837 A.2d 178 (2003)

We went to a birthday party for one of our neighbors last night. Sooner or later at parties, people around me start telling me their divorce trainwreck stories.

One woman told me about how she and her ex fought over who would get the two kayaks.

“Why didn’t you take one and let your ex take one?” I asked.
“They were a matched pair.”
“ So,” I said, “Just buy another matched pair.”
“They were hand-made and unique.”

It ended up that the husband bought the wife’s kayak for $750.

More divorce trainwreck stories.

Professor April Domino looked over her horn-rimmed glasses at her Domestic Relations class.  She wore navy pants and jacket with a bright red silk blouse.  She used the Socratic Method, which is the classic law school process of teaching by asking questions.

“Amanda!” she called out, picking a student at random off the seating chart.  “Your client calls you and says her fiancé has called off the wedding and taken her engagement ring.  She has spent a fortune on the caterer and has had to go to therapy for the trauma.  Can you sue him?”

“Yes,” Amanda answers.  “Sue him for damages for breach of a promise to marry.”

“Congratulations, Amanda, you’ve just lost your first case!  To find out why, read Section 3-102 of the Maryland Family Law Article.

Embarrassed in front of her classmates, Amanda went to the library and pulled the book from the shelf.  She turned to Section 3-102 and read:

3-102. Action for breach of promise to marry.

(a)  In general.- Unless the individual is pregnant, an individual:

(1) has no cause of action for breach of promise to marry; and

(2) may not bring an action for breach of promise to marry regardless of where the cause of action arose.

Amanda decided she liked domestic relations and she vowed to make an A in that class.

The family law attorneys of Gower & Bluck put together this helpful infographic of ten things you need to do before you file for divorce.

The IRS does not consider a loan to be income.

But if you own your own business, you can manipulate your income.  So if someone owes you $50,000 for goods and services, you don’t bill them until next year.  You have your business borrow $50,000 from the bank, using your $50,000 accounts receivable as collateral.  Then your business loans $50,000 to you for your living expenses.

Is your income zero or $50,000?

It’s a situation where you will want to have an accountant as an expert witness.  And even then, the accountants for each side will have conflicting opinions.  I’ve had cases where the judge decided to include loans as income.

Leroy and Mynell Gassaway married in 1952.  They separated in 1979.

In their DC divorce, the trial court divided marital property upon consideration of the fact that Leroy’s mother owned a house and that Leroy was the only heir and would inherit the property.  After all, “opportunities for the future acquisition of assets” is one of the factors a judge must consider in dividing martial property.

On appeal, however, the court said this was not an equitable way to divide property.

In Mumma v. Mumma, 280 A.2d 73, 76 (D.C. 1971), this court ruled that gifts to the husband from his parents could not be considered in determining his income for purposes of computing his alimony obligation, presumably, because any expectation of gifts is inherently speculative and thus could not be counted upon as a predictable portion of the husband’s annual financial return.  Accord Scott v. Scott, 645 S.W. 2d 193, 198 (Mo. Ct. App. 1982) (despite history of gifts to wife from parents, court property declined to consider “such an uncertain source of funds as future gifts” in computing her alimony award).  The same reasoning is applicable to anticipated gifts of real property or other assets, e.g., though inheritance.

The court recognized decisions from some courts ruling otherwise, but rejected this approach as “mischievous”.

— Gassaway v. Gassaway, 489 A.2d 1073 (D.C. 1985)

Albert  Mumma married Jean in 1952 and they had three children together.   Albert supported the family as an architect.  He had an office in Georgetown.  In 1968 the parties had a violent altercation and they decided to divorce.

The judge awarded $200 a month in alimony and $500 a month in child support to Jean, plus attorney fees and costs.  Albert appealed complaining that he was ordered to pay support of $8,400 a year, while his income was only $9,422 in 1968 and $12,726  in 1969.   Jean countered that, among other things, he received gifts from his parents.

The DC Court of Appeals reversed the trial court, holding that “gifts do not constitute income” and suggested that Albert’s income tax returns would be an appropriate guide to his actual income in the absence of affirmative evidence otherwise.

Mumma v. Mumma, 280 A.2d 73 (1971)

There is a perfect winter storm of depression brewing.  Got the blues?  You are not alone.  There are good reasons you may be feeling sad right now.

Holiday Depression

You may get depressed at this time of year because it reminds you of bad experiences of past holidays.  Or you may get depressed because you have had better holidays in the past.   Or you just may be comparing this holiday to an imagined holiday like the ones in the Norman Rockwell paintings or the happy holidays you think your friends are enjoying.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

At this time of year I’m driving to the office in the dark and driving home from work in the dark.  The days are shorter.  There is less sunlight.  We feel good when we are in the sun.  We feel bad when there is a lack of sunlight.

Divorce Depression

It is usual for people separating and divorcing to feel depressed.  The future is uncertain and scary.  Finances are usually a mess. You may be heartbroken.

So, what can you do, if all three events are hitting you at the same time?  Ride out the storm.  It will take time.  You will have grief.  And pain.  But eventually, the storm will be over, and your new life will make all this seem like a distant memory.

Sue Ann Ham was awarded nearly a billion dollars in her divorce from energy tycoon Harold Hamm in Oklahoma.

But her attorney says that’s less than 6 percent of the couple’s estimated $18 billion wealth.

She is planning to appeal.

“Basically it costs as much to get unmarried as it does to get married.” Bruce Cameron, Cameron Law PLLC, The Huffington Post