“I KNOW MY HUSBAND WILL AT SOME POINT INHERIT OVER 1 MILLION DOLLARS BUT HE DENIES IT AND I CANNOT FIND ANY SUPPORTING EVIDENCE. WILL A JUDGE CONSIDER THE FUTURE INHERITANCE IN AWARDING ME SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE?”

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Without supporting documentation, a court should not base its decision to grant spousal maintenance on the wife’s sheer speculation as to the husband’s possible future inheritance. As always, even the smallest factual changes can result in a very different outcome. That being said, in a case decided by a court in the State of New York, the New York court ruled that where the husband testified that he had no property, assets, or any kind of income besides his earnings of $50 a week, the wife’s sheer speculation that the husband had hidden substantial means and would likely inherit millions of dollars at some point in the future did not justify awarding the wife $350 per week in spousal maintenance.

It is worth noting the case above is distinguishable from the very common situation where one party fails to show up at a hearing and the party’s income is then “estimated” by the court. In this case, where the party ordered to pay does not show up, courts in New York State have wide discretion to “impute” income. In New York, courts may base the ruling on the average minimum wage in the state, the median income of people in the community, and a variety of other measurements.

The critical point here is that in the above case, unlike the case where the party ordered to pay fails to show up, one party alleges the other party has a certain amount of money or assets and the other party disagrees “on the record.” Although it is easy to get lost in legal terminology, when parties disagree “on the record” it simply means that one party alleges a fact in court and the other party disagrees with the fact. Although the parties may, in fact, disagree on how much money one of the party earns even where one of the party’s fails to show up, the critical point is that the disagreement is contested in court. To contest an issue in court, you or your attorney may submit a motion to the court fleshing out the dispute, or you may simply state that you contest the point in court.

 

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