When faced with divorce, you are likely concerned about your financial future, including whether you can receive alimony or may be asked to pay it. At Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield, we will help you understand how Maryland alimony law applies to your unique circumstances, and we will advocate tirelessly for your financial interests during and after divorce.
When one household becomes two, whether as a result of separation or divorce, one spouse may need, or claim to need, some financial assistance from the other to help cover living expenses. Alimony, also known as spousal support or maintenance, can provide that help if appropriate to the situation.
Alimony is a payment or payments from one spouse or ex-spouse for the benefit of the other, usually (but not necessarily) on a monthly basis, while the couple is living separate and apart.
In Maryland, alimony typically arises at one of two stages of a divorce proceeding: either “pendente lite,” which means during the litigation, for the period of time before a divorce is granted; or alimony awarded at the time of divorce, for the period of time after the divorce. Different goals are served by alimony at these two stages, and therefore, different rules apply.
Alimony pendente lite is financial support necessary to maintain the status quo during the divorce process. When awarded by a court, alimony is governed by consideration of the recipient’s needs and the payor’s ability to pay. Having a financial need for alimony does not mean the other spouse has the financial ability to pay alimony. Conversely, just because a party has the financial ability to pay alimony does not mean that the other spouse has a financial need to receive alimony. The determination of financial need and the ability to pay are complex decisions to be made by the court. Many of the factors germane to alimony considered by a court at a final divorce proceeding are irrelevant in the decision of whether and how much a court should award as pendente lite alimony.
Alimony awarded at the time of a divorce, by contrast, requires the consideration of many factors set forth by statute, which go well beyond simple need and ability to pay. In Maryland, there are two types of alimony that can be awarded upon the entry of a divorce: “rehabilitative” alimony, for a defined period of time, or “indefinite” alimony, which continues until the death of either party, the remarriage of the recipient, or until subsequently modified by the court or by agreement.
However, a Maryland court may award indefinite alimony in one of two situations: if the court determines that one party is unlikely to become self-supporting due to age, illness, infirmity or disability, or if the court determines that the parties’ standards of living after divorce will be unconscionably disparate even after the alimony recipient has made as much progress as can be expected toward becoming self-supporting. Nevertheless, an award of indefinite alimony does not mean that alimony will be permanent. Indefinite alimony awards remain subject to future modification if the financial circumstances of either party should warrant a change.
It is important to note that alimony determinations are quite fact specific, and that similar situations may be resolved very differently by the court. That is why it is essential that a party seeking alimony or defending against an alimony claim utilize experienced counsel.
A court may award alimony in response to a specific request made as part of a Complaint for annulment or divorce, or in response to a Complaint just for alimony. The order awarding alimony may be based on a written agreement between the spouses, or on the findings of the court.
Maryland has no formula for determining the amount or duration of alimony payments. This makes alimony awards by the court uncertain and unpredictable. As with many other domestic relations issues, the parties are free to reach an agreement regarding the amount, duration, and frequency of alimony payments, as well as whether those payments will be modifiable or non-modifiable in the future. On the other hand, if a court orders alimony, that award will always be terminable or modifiable.
While no particular formula exists to calculate alimony awards, when considering a request for alimony, Maryland courts must consider “all factors necessary for a fair and equitable award.” These factors include:
Note that even though a fault-based ground for divorce is not required to receive a court award of alimony, the cause of the estrangement of the parties can impact whether and how much alimony a court awards.
Your financial situation during and after your divorce will have a significant impact upon your well-being for many years to come. Having the financial resources you need sets the tone for your future. At Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield, we are laser-focused on achieving your financial objectives. With decades of experience in Maryland family law, including complex alimony cases, we approach these matters with tactical precision and creative insight to protect your interests.
We are experienced in seeking alimony awards in court, customizing alimony settlements to each client’s unique circumstances, modifying and terminating alimony awards, as well as collecting and enforcing alimony. Our experience includes working with clients, whether recipients or payors, to protect their financial interests. We also have the experience and knowledge needed to help with the technical and complex nature of alimony in the international divorce context.
We invite you to contact Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield to schedule a consultation to discuss your individual situation and learn how we can help you with your alimony concerns.