McGeehan v. McGeehan – Court of Appeals: Oral Agreement on Separate Property Court of Special Appeals: Government Intervention & Imputed Income

by | Jun 27, 2017

On June 2, 2017, the Court of Appeals heard oral argument in McGeehan v. McGeehan. To view the video replay:…/2016/coa20170602caseno93.mp4

The Court of Appeals granted cert as to the issue of whether an oral agreement did not constitute a “valid agreement” under Family Law §8-201(e) for purposes of excluding property from marital property.

This is an appeal of an unreported opinion with many twists and turns. Well worth reading:…

Two quite interesting issues below, but not appealed:

1. The Government’s intervention in the suit at the Circuit Court level to protect classified information regarding a spouse’s employment when the non-employee spouse would not sign a confidentiality agreement; and,

2. The imputation of income to the non-employee spouse of $105,000, despite that spouse having stopped work in 2002 to live abroad due to the employee spouse’s job change and to raise the parties’ eight (yes, 8) children. The non-employee spouse had worked as a patent attorney from the time of the marriage in 1996 until 2002 and was voluntarily impoverished.

Discussion of the Government’s involvement in the case is enlightening, considering how many cases in this area involve government employees with security clearances and access to top-secret information. Good information to know.

The imputation of income and voluntary impoverishment issues leave me scratching my head. The Court of Special Appeals’s unreported opinion does not provide enough information to understand fully its reasoning. But, $105,000 is a hefty amount of imputed income considering the non-employee spouse had been out of work for 13 years (from the 2002 move abroad until the 2015 divorce) and could not be said to be lazy, if raising 8 children. It is difficult to imagine simply picking up where one left off career-wise 13 years before, as if skills and age have no bearing. Or, maybe the court believed the spouse could have found immediate employment as a paralegal (since she earned $200,000 at the time she left the practice of law). Perhaps an anomaly, perhaps (and without more information) a harsh reflection of the court’s expectations of unemployed spouses – especially those with significant education and specialized skills.