Under Maryland law, spouses have a duty to support each other and that duty continues until a judgment of absolute divorce. After a judgment for absolute divorce is entered, a spouse only has a duty to provide support for their ex-spouse based on an agreement or court order and is known as alimony or spousal support. Unlike child support, there is no set formula to calculate whether an award of alimony is appropriate and, if it is appropriate, how much alimony should be awarded. To determine whether alimony is appropriate, lawyers and judges consider a series of factors set forth in the Maryland Family Law Art. § 11-106(b) discussed below.
The purpose of alimony is to limit an unfair economic impact on one spouse who has no income or a lower income by requiring the other spouse to make periodic payments for a period of time to enable the recipient spouse to become self-supporting. There are three types of alimony: 1) temporary alimony, 2) rehabilitative alimony, and 3) indefinite alimony. Temporary alimony is paid by one spouse to the other during the pendency of the divorce. Its purpose is to maintain the status quo during the pendency of the divorce proceedings. An award for temporary alimony is not definitive of rehabilitative or indefinite alimony once the divorce is final. Rehabilitative alimony, the most common type of alimony, is paid by one spouse to the other to enable the recipient spouse to become self-supporting. It allows time for the recipient spouse to obtain necessary education to re-enter the working world. Indefinite alimony may be awarded when there is no reasonable expectation that the recipient spouse will make a substantial progress toward becoming self-supporting. This could be due to age, illness, infirmity, or disability. MD Code Ann., Fam. Law § 11-106(c). Indefinite alimony may also be awarded when the standards of living between the parties would be “unconscionably disparate,” meaning that there is a very large and unfair difference between both parties’ standard of living. Id.
Some of the factors that the courts may consider are in making an award of alimony are:
The ability of the party seeking alimony to be wholly or partly self-supporting;
The time necessary for the party seeking alimony to gain sufficient education or training to enable that party to find suitable employment;
The standard of living that the parties established during their marriage;
The duration of the marriage;
The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family;
The circumstances that contributed to the estrangement of the parties;
The age of each party;
The physical and mental condition of each party;
The ability of the party from whom alimony is sought to meet that party’s needs while meeting the needs of the party seeking alimony;
Any agreement between the parties;
The financial needs and financial resources of each party.
MD Code Ann., Fam. Law § 11-106(b).
It is vital that alimony is requested prior to the judgment for absolute divorce. A failure to make a claim for alimony prior to your judgment for absolute divorce will result in a forfeiture of your right to make that claim.
Divorce proceedings can be complicated and emotionally taxing on both parties. Certain aspects of a divorce proceeding such as the distribution of marital property, child custody, child support, and alimony are intertwined and may be balanced against each other to determine the appropriate award.
Each individual divorce case is different and it is important that the judge or magistrate hearing your case hears all the facts pertinent to the aforementioned factors. For these very reasons, it is important to obtain experienced legal counsel prior to entering an agreement or filing for divorce to determine whether you should pursue a claim for alimony and to present your case. For more information regarding alimony or divorce proceedings, contact Dugan, McKissick & Longmore, L.L.C.
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