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When going through a divorce, one of the most critical aspects to consider is alimony, also known as spousal support.
Alimony is a form of financial compensation provided by one spouse to the other to ensure their economic well-being after the divorce.
In the state of Maryland, alimony awards are determined based on various factors, including the length of the marriage, the financial stability of each spouse, and the standard of living established during the union.
In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the intricacies of alimony in Maryland, including the types of alimony, factors considered in determining alimony awards, the duration of alimony payments, and the termination of alimony.
Whether you are seeking or paying alimony, understanding how alimony works in Maryland is crucial for making informed decisions about your financial future.
Types of Alimony
In Maryland, there are three main types of alimony: permanent alimony, rehabilitative alimony, and alimony pendente lite.
1. Permanent Alimony
Permanent alimony is awarded when the recipient spouse's age, disability, or illness makes it unlikely for them to become self-supporting. It may also be granted when the standard of living between the spouses would be unconscionably disproportionate without ongoing financial support. Unlike the name suggests, permanent alimony does not necessarily mean lifelong payments. It typically continues until the death of either spouse, the remarriage of the recipient spouse, or a significant change in circumstances.
2. Rehabilitative Alimony
Rehabilitative alimony is designed to support the recipient spouse for a specific period, allowing them to acquire the necessary education, training, or skills to become financially self-sufficient. The duration of rehabilitative alimony is determined by the court based on the recipient spouse's needs and the time required to achieve self-sufficiency. Once the recipient spouse has completed their rehabilitation plan, the alimony payments will cease.
3. Alimony Pendente Lite
Alimony pendente lite, also known as temporary alimony, is awarded during the divorce proceedings to maintain the financial stability of both parties. It is intended to cover immediate living expenses and ends once the divorce is finalized.
Factors Considered in Determining Alimony Awards
When deciding whether to award alimony and the appropriate amount, Maryland courts consider several factors to ensure fairness for both parties involved. These factors include:
- Length of the Marriage: The duration of the marriage is a crucial factor in determining alimony awards. Generally, longer marriages are more likely to result in alimony payments.
- Financial Stability: The financial stability of each spouse is evaluated to assess their ability to be self-supporting. Factors such as income, assets, debts, and earning potential are taken into account.
- Standard of Living: The court considers the standard of living established during the marriage. It examines the couple's income, expenses, and the lifestyle they maintained to determine whether it is realistic given their individual financial situations.
- Contributions Made: The contributions made by each spouse, both monetary and non-monetary, are considered. This includes factors such as employment, childcare responsibilities, and any sacrifices made to support the other spouse's career or education.
- Age and Health: The age and physical or mental health of each spouse are taken into consideration. The court assesses whether any health conditions or disabilities impact their ability to work and become financially self-sufficient.
- Agreements Between Spouses: If the spouses have any existing agreements regarding alimony, such as prenuptial or postnuptial agreements, the court will review and consider their terms.
- Reasons for Divorce: The reasons for the divorce, such as abuse, cruelty, or desertion, may also be examined. This can influence the court's decision on alimony.
- Financial Stability of the Recipient: The recipient spouse's financial stability is evaluated to determine if they can support themselves at present. Employment and income information may be requested to assess their ability to meet their own needs.
- Time to Achieve Financial Self-Sufficiency: If the recipient spouse requires time to become financially self-sufficient, the court will consider the duration needed for them to acquire the necessary education or training. Alimony may be awarded for a specific period until they can support themselves.
- Ability to Pay: The financial capacity of the spouse who may be required to pay alimony is evaluated. The court reviews their income, expenses, and whether making alimony payments would create a significant financial burden.
- Impact on Government Assistance: Alimony may impact a person's eligibility for government assistance. The court considers whether receiving or paying alimony could result in earlier qualification for medical assistance benefits or other forms of assistance.
- Financial Resources and Requirements: Retirement benefits, financial liabilities, assets, and personal property are examined. The court assesses the financial resources and requirements of each spouse, including debts, mortgages, and other financial obligations.
Duration of Alimony Payments
The duration of alimony payments in Maryland varies depending on the type of alimony awarded.
- Permanent Alimony: As the name suggests, permanent alimony may continue indefinitely until the death of either spouse, the remarriage of the recipient spouse, or a significant change in circumstances.
- Rehabilitative Alimony: Rehabilitative alimony is awarded for a specific period, determined by the court based on the recipient spouse's needs. Once the recipient spouse has completed their rehabilitation plan and is considered self-supporting, the alimony payments will cease.
- Alimony Pendente Lite: Alimony pendente lite is temporary and only awarded during the divorce proceedings. It ends once the divorce is finalized.
It is important to note that alimony payments can be modified or terminated under certain circumstances.
For example, if the recipient spouse remarries or if there is a substantial change in the financial situation of either spouse, the court may modify or terminate the alimony order.
Termination of Alimony
Alimony payments in Maryland terminate under specific circumstances:
- Death: Alimony payments end upon the death of either the paying spouse or the recipient spouse.
- Remarriage: If the recipient spouse remarries, alimony payments typically cease. However, it is essential to review the specific terms outlined in the divorce agreement or court order, as some agreements may address the impact of remarriage on alimony payments.
- Substantial Change in Circumstances: Alimony payments can be modified or terminated if there is a significant change in the financial situation of either spouse. This could include a substantial increase or decrease in income, retirement, or other significant life events that impact the financial needs of the recipient spouse.
It is crucial to consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney in Maryland to understand your rights and obligations regarding alimony and to navigate any potential modifications or termination of alimony payments.
Alimony is a crucial aspect of divorce proceedings in Maryland, providing financial support to the lower-income spouse. Understanding the types of alimony, factors considered in determining alimony awards, and the duration and termination of alimony payments is essential for making informed decisions about your financial future.
Seeking the guidance of an experienced family law attorney can ensure that your interests are protected throughout the alimony process. They can provide expert advice, represent your case effectively, and help you navigate the complexities of alimony.
Remember, alimony is a sensitive and intricate matter, and each case is unique. By seeking professional legal assistance, you can secure the best possible outcome for your situation and move forward with confidence in your financial future.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified attorney for personalized guidance and representation in legal matters.
About the Author
Harry Baumohl is one of Maryland’s foremost family law practitioners. His areas of focus include but are certainly not limited to the following:
1. Experienced Family Law Attorney, dealing with Divorce, Child Custody, and High Net Worth Divorce Litigation - with over four decades of an amazing track record and quality expertise.
- Focused on representing clients – for wives, husbands and same-sex couples – typically with high family income, net worth and substantial and/or complicated asset scenarios. Expertly untangling complicated household monetary and family asset situations.
- Expertise in high conflict and ongoing parenting disputes.
- Prenuptial Agreements as a planning tool.
- Mediation and Collaborative Family Law.
Harry is a founder of Baumohl Hamburg LLC in Pikesville, Maryland, Baltimore County, conveniently located right off the Baltimore Beltway. Significant representation and court appearances in surrounding areas include Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, and Anne Arundel County.