Alimony concept. An envelope with cash on a table.

Alimony, also known as spousal support, is an area of family law that can be especially confusing for people going through a divorce. We receive many questions about alimony, and the reason is unsurprising: alimony can have a significant financial impact on both the person paying it and the person receiving it, and that impact can last for years. In this blog post, we’ll address some of the most frequently asked questions about alimony in Maryland.

What is Alimony?

Alimony is a payment that one person makes to another during a separation or following a divorce. In Maryland, alimony payments are periodic—usually monthly—and typically of the same amount each time. Unlike some jurisdictions, Maryland does not allow the payment of alimony in one lump sum. However, spouses might agree in their marital settlement agreement that one will pay the other a certain sum of money in the divorce in lieu of alimony.

If you are seeking alimony from your spouse, you may ask for it as part of the Complaint for Divorce or while the divorce is pending. Once the divorce is final, you cannot go back and ask the court to award alimony.

Are There Different Types of Alimony in Maryland?

In Maryland, one spouse might make payments to the other for their support while the divorce is ongoing. This is referred to as alimony pendente lite, which literally means “during the litigation.” When a divorce is final, a court might order either “rehabilitative alimony” or “indefinite alimony.” Rehabilitative alimony is more common; it is designed to provide the recipient support while they acquire the training or skills to become self-supporting. Rehabilitative alimony is ordered for a set period of time.

Alimony in Maryland is not intended to be a lifetime pension, but indefinite alimony is appropriate in some situations, such as:

  • Where one party cannot reasonably be expected to become self-supporting due to age, illness, infirmity, or disability.
  • Where even after the person seeking alimony has made as much progress toward self-support as can reasonably be expected, the parties’ respective standards of living will still be unconscionably disparate.

Unsurprisingly, indefinite alimony in Maryland is much more common in long-term marriages (more than 20 years), especially when one spouse is likely to always earn much more than the other. As the name suggests, it is awarded for an indefinite period, until an event occurs to terminate it.

How Long Does Alimony Last?

Alimony lasts for the period of time specified in the court order granting it or until terminated for some reason. Either rehabilitative or indefinite alimony can be terminated by certain events:

  • The death of either party;
  • The remarriage of the alimony recipient;
  • The date established by the parties or the court for the termination of alimony has passed; or
  • The court finds it necessary to terminate alimony to avoid a harsh or inequitable result.

Can Alimony in Maryland Be Modified?

That depends. If the court orders an alimony award, that award is always modifiable up until the date of termination. However, the party seeking to modify a court’s award of alimony must show a “material change of circumstances” to justify the modification.

If the parties agree on the terms of an alimony award in their marital settlement agreement, they can agree that the award will “not be modifiable by any court.” In that case, the court will not modify the amount, duration, or other terms of the award, no matter how much a modification might otherwise be called for.

What is Alimony Based On?

If a couple cannot reach their own agreement about alimony, it is up to the court to decide whether there will be alimony, how much, and for how long. Unlike with child support, there is no formula for calculating alimony. Instead, the court takes into account the following factors to arrive at a fair and equitable award:

  • The ability of the spouse seeking alimony to become wholly or partially self-supporting;
  • The time necessary to get the education or training to find suitable employment;
  • The spouses’ standard of living during the marriage;
  • The duration of the marriage;
  • Each party’s contributions, both monetary and non-monetary, to the family’s well-being;
  • Each party’s age;
  • Each party’s physical and mental health;
  • The ability of the party being asked to pay alimony to meet their own needs while also making alimony payments to the other party;
  • Any agreement between the parties (such as a prenuptial agreement);
  • Each party’s financial needs and resources;
  • Whether the award would have an effect on a party’s need or eligibility for government assistance;
  • Whether, due to age, illness, infirmity, or disability, the party seeking alimony would be unable to make substantial progress toward becoming self-supporting;
  • Whether even after making such progress, the parties’ respective standards of living would be unconscionably disparate.

As you can see, a court’s decisions regarding alimony depend heavily on the facts of the situation. An experienced Maryland alimony attorney can help you present those facts in the light most favorable to your position. That could result in you receiving more alimony or paying less; over a period of years, that could mean many thousands of dollars. Accordingly, retaining the best alimony attorney you can afford should be considered an investment, not just an expense.

To learn more about alimony in Maryland, contact Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield to schedule a consultation.

Categories: Divorce