This is my first in a series of articles on dirty tricks in a Maryland Divorce. These articles ARE NOT intended to be black book recipes on how you can perpetrate dirty tricks on the other side in your pendente-lite alimony case. My purpose is to expose the potential dirty tricks to those parties who are uninitiated. As is often said, forewarned is forearmed.
I endeavored to explain and define pendente-lite alimony in a previous article “Pendente-Lite Alimony Defined.” I described how it is perhaps the easiest form of alimony to obtain. Yet, it is also extremely short in duration. It is only during the pendency of your divorce case and rarely lasts more than a few months.
There are three types of alimony. In contrast to the other two forms of alimony, pendente-lite alimony takes little or no equitable factors into consideration. In crafting a decision regarding pendente-lite alimony, the judge is required to consider the boring factors of “need” versus “ability to pay.”
That analysis is a stark contrast from the more subjective “equity based” factors which are examined in rehabilitative and/or indefinite alimony awards. Sadly, those “equity” factors often include the juicy photos of her with the pool boy and the photos of him from the private investigator posing as a cocktail waitress. You are just not allowed to present that stuff in a pendente-lite alimony hearing.
The procedure to apply for pendente-lite alimony requires first that it be requested in a complaint or cross complaint for divorce. Maryland requires that a party requesting pendente-lite alimony file a “Financial Statement.” That financial statement requirement attaches to both spouses. A party from whom pendente-lite alimony is requested must also file a financial statement with his/her answer.
A model form for the financial statement and other Circuit Court domestic relations forms can be obtained at the following link. https://www.courts.state.md.us/family/forms/index.html Please bear in mind that you will find there are two types of financial statement 1) the “short form” (DR30) and 2) the “long form” (DR31).
The short form is only acceptable in cases where the financial relief at issue is limited to child support. In cases where ANY type of alimony is being requested (including pendente-lite alimony) the long form is required.
The Financial Statement Game
Keep in mind again that the issues in a pendente-lite alimony decision are limited to need and ability to pay. It stands to reason therefore that the first and most frequent dirty trick people play is artificially inflating expenses and artificially deflating income on that financial statement.
Typical financial statements in a hotly contested pendente-lite hearing often indicate that both of the parties’ expenses greatly exceed their respective monthly income. Almost everybody plays the game to some extent. Nevertheless, that sort of upside down budget just doesn’t happen in the real world (unless you are the federal government)
As a consequence of these maneuverings, It often falls upon your attorney to point out to the judge how your financial statement is accurate. He will also show how the other party’s financial statement is just a self serving farce.
Often judges don’t need very much persuasion on this issue because the practice of number stuffing on financial statements is sadly typical. They have, no doubt, seen it before and will usually have a pretty jaundiced eye toward EVERYBODY’s financial statement. Be warned!!
Pay Your “Ex” or Pay his/her “Ex”penses?
If you find yourself faced with divorce, many people would rather pay money to almost anyone other than their soon to be Ex. That mentality is just plain broken thinking. Even more so if there are children involved. Nevertheless, in a battle between what is right, versus what is real…let’s just say: real often wins.
A spouse who is prepared to play “the long game” can strategically pay all or most of the expenses of the dependent spouse straight through the pendente-lite hearing only to drop paying those expenses immediately after the pendente-lite decision.
It goes like this: The wealthy spouse moves out, under whatever circumstances, but pays ALL the household expenses of the other spouse eg. rent, mortgage, car, insurance, daycare etc… When the pendente-lite hearing rolls around, there is no “need” for the dependent spouse and by paying all these expense, the financially dominant spouse shows he has no “ability to pay.”
So, faced with those facts, the judge orders no pendente-lite alimony. Then the financially dominant spouse stops paying some, or all, of those expenses. If a spouse got ordered to pay pendente-lite alimony to the “Ex” and fails to pay up, he or she may be held in contempt and potentially incarcerated.
In contrast, if the financially dominant spouse wasn’t “ordered” to pay those expenses they can’t be held in contempt when, and if, they fail to meet those obligations. Smart? No!! Tricky? Yes!!
If you are faced with this situation and there is no pendente-lite alimony paid to you directly, INSIST that the dominant spouse be COURT ORDERED to stay current on those other expenses.
The Pension Game
Ok, so there has been a pendente-lite hearing and the judge said husband’s income is more than he says he makes. She also determined his expenses are less that he really spends. Accordingly, the judge smacked him with a significant pendente-lite alimony obligation. What if she was wrong??? Judges are wrong, lawyers are wrong, anybody can be wrong! Right?
Now what? What if that husband pays the pendente-lite alimony (that he really can’t afford) by giving blood, selling his baseball cards on ebay etc… Then by the time the final divorce date rolls around, what has happened? He just proved the wrong..to be right!! Right?
As a solution the husband in question may have to raid his 401K to pay the monthly alimony. Then he raids it again the next month…the next month…etc. Each month he hits that 401K to pay his “Ex” wife her pendente-lite alimony.
Here is the twist. Often the money in the 401K was acquired while they were married. With rare exception, when the final divorce rolls around, the court will order what’s left in the account to be split 50/50 anyway.
So, in one fell swoop he has proven to the court that he could not afford to pay the alimony that he was ordered to pay in the first place AND he has paid the wife’s alimony with her own money!!!!!!
The dirtiest part of this pendente-lite alimony trick, is that you may never know if it was a trick at all.
322 West Patrick Street