Attorney-at-Law

THE INCARCERATED SPOUSE

In Uncategorized on 11/30/2022 at 16:13

Judge Wells has occasion today to consider the effect of an incarcerated spouse when innocent spousery is on the menu. Here’s Jason Todd Reynolds and Kelli Hunter Reynolds, T. C. Memo. 2022-115, filed 11/30/22.There’s a bunch deficiencies, add-ons and chops (hi, Judge Holmes), but these are conceded. Kelli wants innocent spousery.

Some of the deficiencies arise from Kelli’s unreported unemployment compensation, interest, and legal fees; although employed during some of the years at issue, Kelli also had her own law practice in the basement of their five (count ’em, five) bedroom house. She and JT did have five (count ’em, five) children, the last of whom was born while JT was in the slammer.

JT did provide Kelli with a diamond anniversary ring, a vintage coat (not sure what that is; maybe what thrills Steven Porterfield on Antiques Roadshow), and a designer handbag. Unhappily, JT was adding to his salary with irregular unauthorized donations from the church where he worked as director of finance, for which he eventually took an eight-year fall.

After Judge Wells blows off all Kelli’s arguments for innocent spousery, he is left with the question whether Kelli and JT were married while JT was guesting with the State of Maryland.

“Petitioner wife argues, however, that she is entitled to relief because under Maryland law they became legally separated during petitioner husband’s incarceration. She alternatively argues that they were not members of the same household during that time. We disagree with both arguments. Under Maryland law, there are only two types of judicially sanctioned marital dissolutions: an absolute divorce and a limited one. Each type of divorce requires a judicial decree to be effective. Petitioners do not assert that they ever obtained a judicial decree of legal separation. We therefore reject that argument as providing grounds for section 6015(c) relief.

“We similarly reject petitioner wife’s argument that she had not been a member of the same household as her husband during the 12- month period ending on the date she elected section 6015 relief. The regulations provide that a requesting spouse and a nonrequesting spouse ‘are considered members of the same household during either spouse’s temporary absences from the household if it is reasonable to assume that the absent spouse will return to the household, and the household or a substantially equivalent household is maintained in anticipation of such return.’ Treas. Reg. § 1.6015-3(b)(3)(i). Petitioner husband’s period in federal prison is considered a temporary absence. Id. (‘Examples of temporary absences may include, but are not limited to, absence due to incarceration, illness, business, vacation, military service, or education.’ (Emphasis added.)). Petitioners therefore remained members of the same household during that time.” T. C. Memo. 2022-115, at p. 9. (Citations omitted).

Kelli says she lost the five-bedroom home to foreclosure while JT was doing time. She took the kids and moved in with her parents. That’s compelling, says Judge Wells, but Kelli never sought judicial separation or divorce, and JT promptly moved back in with Kelli and kids as soon as he got outside.

Loyalty defeats innocent spousery.

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