Saturday, July 12, 2008

Victim#34: Wife Leaves Husband, Delays Efforts For Settlement

Here’s one for the record books.

This week I was informed that my wife’s attorney died. The story is that the old guy was at a deposition and got upset over something that apparently triggered a heart attack. He collapsed right there in the conference room and despite the multitude of people and a fair number of very learned colleagues on the scene, no one made the effort to perform CPR and by the time paramedics arrived, it was too late.

Unfortunate as this may be, it now complicates my legal issues. I was scheduled for a pre-trial conference on 21 April with a trial date of 2 May. Now it appears, due to my wife’s need to secure new representation, that the court will grant a continuance, which will undoubtedly lead to additional legal expenses. Given that my attorney has already informed me of the exposure I have for payment of some or all of my wife’s legal fees, guess who gets burned despite having done nothing to create this situation….. So much for fairness and equity.

I’m not quite sure how it works in most other states but I’ve been tied up in this divorce situation for nearly two years. My wife left me and my children back in August of 2003 and despite my many efforts to try and get a divorce done expeditiously, my wife’s, now deceased, attorney has consistently advised her to hold out. What really frosts my butt here is that Maryland, despite the rather lengthy separation between me and my wife, considers our marriage to be uninterrupted and gives her credit for any and all gains, increases, and or acquisition of benefits that may have occurred during our separation despite the fact that she clearly has no equity interest in them.

Another rather unwelcome surprise came when my attorney just happen to mention that my wife and I really weren’t legally separated. It appears that when I went to Court last year for the Limited Divorce (Maryland for Legal Separation), the only thing that was considered was Pendente Lite alimony for my wife. Unbeknown to me, the Court Order did not grant a "legal separation" it was simply silent on the issue. The order only ensured that my wife received a monthly stipend from me presumably so that she could have the ability to litigate her case. The legal euphemism they used was to "preserve her access to the legal system". So I guess the question becomes, if I’m not legally separated, why am I obliged to pay alimony? From a legal standpoint, isn’t my situation really no different than the situation of every other happily married couple in this State? I don’t see the State requiring them to pay spouses stipends of any kind…… Inquiring minds would really like to know!

Promptly removing my case from State Court and gumming up the works of the local legal fraternity may provide my wife with a rather different perspective. Thus far she has refused to get a job and has been claiming an inability to work. Additionally, her recently deceased attorney also told her spend as she pleased and to charge all of her monthly shortages to her credit cards.

I guess the game plan was to show the Court that she needed significant monthly alimony payments simply to meet the needs of her lifestyle. However, I recently had her evaluated by an Independent Medical Evaluator who, if called to testify, will not be favorable to her case. She is also in a rather precarious situation because she also owns a home which has roughly $90,000 in equity.

I suspect if I am successful in executing a legal maneuver that stops any and all payments to her for six months or more, she’ll either have to get a job or settle on something fair and reasonable. If not, she could loose her house and all of her equity….. Too optimistic?