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How Can I Pursue Alimony When My Former Spouse’s Income Fluctuates


Many Maryland residents have jobs in which their income can fluctuate on a monthly basis. They may be contract workers or otherwise not have a steady income. Their earnings may be tied to commission. Jobs such as insurance salesmen, brokers, financial advisors, real estate agents, or sales reps may make significantly more money in one month than they do in another. Workers paid on commission or through contract work may see significant fluctuations in income from one month to the next. In these cases, a spouse requesting alimony may face significant difficulty in establishing their spouse’s income.

Maryland courts hold that the paying of alimony is not dependent on any formula unlike the paying of child support. Judges may consider a variety of factors as outlined in Section 11-106 of Maryland’s family code. The decision on whether to award alimony to a spouse or for how long is in the hands of the trial court judge.

Fluctuating finances and alimony, a case study 

In one divorce case, the wife worked as a radiation specialist earning just over $100,000 a year. Her husband worked as a salesman for an HVAC company and his earnings fluctuated from one year to the next. His annual income ranged anywhere from $490,000 to $520,000. But after COVID-19, his earnings dropped to around $360,000.

In this case, the trial court looked at the husband’s earnings from 2017 to 2021 and constructed an average salary based on that data. Since the data went back to 2017, the trial court determined that the husband’s average salary was closer to $38,000 per month as opposed to around $30,000. Had they only considered data after COVID, his average income would have been much lower. The husband appealed the decision to consider income after 2020. But an appeals court ruled in favor of his wife. In other words, the lookback period was allowable in this case. The appeals court ruled that the judge’s decision did not constitute an abuse of discretion.

Generally speaking, the courts will create an average income that depends on the earnings of the paying spouse to determine how much alimony they should pay even if their income fluctuates from one month to the next. The determination is based on a number of factors. However, the most significant factor is whether or not the recipient spouse will enjoy the same standard of living after the divorce that they enjoyed during the divorce. Other factors can include the ability of the recipient spouse to financially support themselves after the marriage. In the case mentioned above, the husband appealed the decision because the average was based on income that he no longer had access to.

Talk to a Bel Air, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Today 

Schlaich & Thompson have over 60 years of experience representing clients seeking alimony. Call our Bel Air family lawyers today to schedule an appointment and we can begin preparing your arguments immediately.

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