This is the next post in a series of articles discussing spousal support awards in Little Rock, Arkansas. Our previous article discussed how a settlement agreement may impact alimony. Absent any independent justification for being underemployed, a Judge will likely base the person’s alimony payment amount on the income they could have earned if employed in their normal job. We also discussed how a party may prove that the other is underemployed in such a proceeding. In this case, we will further discuss the importance of the discovery process and the methods employed by attorneys to gather objective evidence to support such arguments. If you need assistance, contact our office as soon as possible to speak with a lawyer.
The discovery process is an essential element of any alimony proceeding. Attorneys use discovery to gather evidence from the other party or outside sources to support their clients’ respective arguments. Lawyers have various tools at their disposal during this phase of the proceeding. For instance, interrogatories, or a series of written questions, may be issued to various individuals who are then required to submit written answers to the questions. Witnesses may be called upon to testify under oath before the trial during depositions, which are memorialized by a court reporter and can be used in Court. Lawyers may gather documentary evidence or other tangible items through requests for production. Such evidence may include bank statements, employment records, pay stubs, etc. Finally, subpoenas may be issued to witnesses if their testimony is required in Court. In the context of arguing for or against an alimony request, information gathered throughout the discovery process can be invaluable and make the difference in the Judge’s ultimate decision.
Consider the following example. Bill and Sue have been married for ten years. Early in their marriage, Sue quits her job as an attorney and becomes an elementary school teacher so that her schedule is more compatible with their children’s schedule. Her salary as a teacher is significantly lower than her attorney salary. Bill, who is a successful plastic surgeon, enjoys a sizable salary. Sue seeks alimony as part of their divorce. While the case is pending, Bill quits his job and becomes a carpet cleaner. Sue argues that Bill is purposely underemployed to avoid paying her alimony. Through discovery, her attorney requests Bill’s salary history, direct deposit receipts, and personnel records with the surgery center and learns that Bill quit his job immediately after Sue filed for divorce. The lawyer deposes Bill’s HR director, who testifies that Bill provided very little notice and no reason for his decision to leave the practice. Bill is in good health and provides no evidence to defend against the underemployment claim. By presenting the objective evidence in support of her claim, Sue successfully proves that he is underemployed and the Court requires him to pay alimony based upon his surgeon salary.
It goes without saying that how the Court will rule in any given case will depend upon the specific circumstances. In every case, however, objective evidence is required and working with an attorney experienced in the discovery process can significantly impact the outcome. If you need assistance, contact our Little Rock office today to speak with a lawyer. We also handle matters in Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Springdale, Jonesboro, North Little Rock, Conway, Rogers, Pine Bluff, and throughout the rest of Arkansas.