Woodward, Kehoe, Zarnoch, Robert A. (Retired, Specially
Lydia Huntley ("Lydia"), filed a Complaint for
Absolute Divorce in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County
after twenty-eight years of marriage to appellee, Charles
Huntley ("Charles"). Lydia requested, among other
things, a monetary award, alimony, a portion of the marital
share of Charles's retirement benefits, and
attorney's fees. Charles filed an answer in which he
denied Lydia's entitlement to a monetary award and asked
the court to deny Lydia an award of alimony. Charles did not
request any affirmative relief aside from the grant of a
trial, Charles requested a portion of the marital share of
Lydia's retirement benefits, which were already in payout
status. The trial court denied Charles's request on the
ground that Charles had not included such request in his
pleadings. The court awarded Lydia half of the marital
portion of Charles's retirement benefits and a monetary
award, but denied her request for alimony. The court did,
however, grant Lydia an award of $3, 500 in attorney's
appeal to this Court, Charles raises two issues for our
review, which we have rephrased as questions:
1. Did the trial court err by refusing to grant Charles a
portion of the marital share of Lydia's retirement
benefits because of
Charles's failure to include a request for such relief in
2. Did the trial court abuse its discretion by awarding
attorney's fees to Lydia?
reasons set forth herein, we answer these questions in the
negative and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the circuit
and Lydia were married on September 1, 1986, in Harford
County. No children were born of the marriage; their two
adopted children are emancipated. The parties separated on
September 15, 2013.
October 14, 2014, Lydia filed a Complaint for Absolute
Divorce in the circuit court. In her complaint, Lydia
requested, among other things, that the court award her
alimony, a monetary award, and a portion of the marital share
of Charles's retirement benefits, along with
attorney's fees. On December 2, 2014, Charles filed his
Answer to Complaint for Absolute Divorce, in which he
admitted and denied various allegations in the Complaint,
including a denial of Lydia's allegation that she was
entitled to a monetary award. In the answer, Charles
requested no affirmative relief apart from the Court
"grant[ing] him a Divorce, and deny[ing] [Lydia]
alimony". Charles did not file a counter-complaint.
circuit court held a trial on May 1 and May 8, 2015. At that
time, Charles was sixty years old, and Lydia was sixty-eight
years old. The court found that Charles's annual income
was approximately $130, 000, while Lydia, who was retired,
received a total monthly income of around $3, 500 from her
SSI and military pension, or about $42, 000 per year. The
court also found that both parties had a considerable amount
of debt: Lydia's debts totaled over $459, 000, while
Charles's debts totaled $23, 500. In addition, the court
found that the total value of the parties' marital
property was almost $96, 000.
trial, Charles requested that he be awarded one half of
Lydia's retirement benefits.The trial court denied
Charles's request on the ground that Charles had not
requested such relief in his answer or by counter-complaint.
conclusion of trial, the court issued an oral ruling awarding
Lydia a monetary award of $42, 600. The court also awarded
Lydia one half of the marital share of Charles's
retirement benefits. In addition, the court noted that
Charles "didn't ask for it, but he's entitled to
[Lydia's] Social Security if she's getting Social
Security." The court denied Lydia's request for
alimony, but awarded her attorney's fees in the amount of
12, 2015, the court issued a Judgment of Absolute Divorce,
memorializing its oral rulings. On June 10, 2015, Charles noted
his appeal to this Court.
Rule 8-131(c) states:
When an action has been tried without a jury, the appellate
court will review the case on both the law and the evidence.
It will not set aside the judgment of the trial court on the
evidence unless clearly erroneous, and will give due regard
to the opportunity of the trial court to judge the
credibility of the witnesses.
circuit court's classification of property as marital or
non-marital is subject to review under the clearly erroneous
standard, while a discretionary standard of review applies to
the decision of whether to grant a monetary award and the
amount of that award. Gordon v. Gordon, 174 Md.App.
583, 625-26 (2007). "Factual findings that are supported
by substantial evidence are not clearly erroneous."
Richards v. Richards, 166 Md.App. 263, 272 (2005).
Under the abuse of discretion standard, "we may not
substitute our judgment for that of the fact finder, even if
we might have reached a different result, absent an abuse of
discretion." Gordon, 174 Md.App. at 626
(citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
attorney's fees, this Court has stated that an award of
is governed by the abuse of discretion standard and such an
award should not be modified unless it is arbitrary or
clearly wrong. Abuse of discretion is determined by
evaluating the judge's application of the statutory
criteria as well as the consideration of the facts of the
particular case. Consideration of the statutory criteria ...