Divorce is emotionally draining and often financially devastating. You go from two incomes to one and often end up paying child support and losing your home. Alimony is a further financial burden. It’s important to know how you can avoid or reduce potential alimony in Maryland.
Alimony or spousal support is a periodic payment one former spouse makes to the other. You can make spousal support payments for years or even indefinitely in Maryland. The payments are meant to allow the most disadvantaged spouse to become self-financing and recover from the break-up. To find out more, talk to our Baltimore family law attorney about alimony in Maryland.
Strategies to Avoid or Reduce Potential Alimony in Maryland
Maryland residents have certain strategies that can allow them to avoid or reduce paying alimony. They include:
Make a Prenuptial Agreement
You can avoid paying alimony in the first place by drawing up a prenuptial agreement before you get married. A well-drafted prenuptial document in Maryland will protect you. Prenuptial agreements are also referred to as “antenuptial” or “premarital” agreements. In the past prenups have been associated with celebrities and those who are extremely rich. They are now more common.
Although Maryland doesn’t have a specific prenup law, it allows written contracts between prospective spouses that can be enforced at the dissolution of a marriage. They can agree to certain issues like the division of marital property. You can limit or even eliminate alimony in the prenuptial agreement.
Prenuptial agreements can protect small businesses and family heirlooms. Sometimes couples agree that one spouse will be a primary breadwinner while the other spouse will be responsible for childcare and household duties. They may agree on a level of alimony before they get married.
You can eliminate potential alimony in Maryland through a prenup. These agreements can also stipulate that alimony is paid in a lump sum rather than periodic payments over years. Our Baltimore divorce lawyer can help you draft a detailed document to ensure protection in case of divorce in Maryland.
Change Your Lifestyle
There is no set formula to receive alimony in Maryland. Factors such as the ability of the higher income earner to pay alimony are pivotal in the judge’s decision. Perception is important in these cases. If you live a flashy lifestyle and buy expensive things when your spouse is struggling to make ends meet, a judge is unlikely to be sympathetic. Living modestly from the time you split up can help your case. The 2016 case of Hecht v. Hecht in the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland showed you don’t have to be impoverished to qualify for alimony. In that case, the husband earned over $1 million a year and his estranged wife over $115,000 a year. She was still entitled to alimony because of the disparity in income.
Show Fault in the Case
Maryland recognizes fault-based divorces. Showing adultery, abandonment, vicious conduct or cruelty to a child may affect your spouse’s alimony claim. However, the judge bases alimony on economic rather than moral reasons in Maryland. Fault can only be considered if it affects the economic needs of the spouse who’s trying to claim alimony. Adultery, for example, is only relevant to alimony if it had an impact on the finances of the supported spouse. Gathering evidence of fault can be useful in the divorce proceedings. It may avoid or reduce potential alimony in Maryland in certain cases.
End a Failing Relationship Sooner Rather than Later
The length of your marriage is an important factor in the amount of alimony you pay to your former spouse in Maryland. Usually, the longer a person is in a marriage, the higher alimony payments will be. However, alimony is unlikely to be paid when both parties earn a similar amount. If you realize your relationship is not going to last and there is a major disparity in incomes between the parties, consider ending your marriage or filing for legal separation as soon as possible to avoid big spousal support payments.
Seek a Modification of Alimony
You may be able to modify your alimony and reduce your payments. However, a judge will only grant a modification if you experience a substantial and material change in your circumstances. The law allows the divorcing spouses to include in their marital settlement agreement terms that state when a supporting spouse can go to court and seek a modification. You should make sure your agreement allows a reduction or a termination of alimony if your circumstances change dramatically such as if you lose a lob or suffer a major illness.
Highlight Your Spouse’s Potential
Most alimony is given for a limited time to allow the disadvantaged spouse to get in a better position. Divorce proceedings allow you to make a case that your alimony payments should have a cut-off date. Through your attorney, you can make the case to limit alimony payments. Alimony is most commonly awarded for a finite period until the recipient’s circumstances improve by landing a job, or a new job, or taking a class or vocational course. This is known as rehabilitative alimony. Judges in Maryland occasionally award indefinite alimony. These cases are rare and are usually restricted to instances when one spouse has limited future earning capacity.
It’s important to highlight your spouse’s ability to make more money during divorce proceedings, especially if he or she is highlighting the large disparity in earnings. Your Maryland divorce lawyer can do this on your behalf.
Talk to Our Baltimore Alimony Lawyer About Reducing Your Payments in Maryland
At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice, our attorney can advise you on all aspects of divorce law including alimony. It’s important to consult a lawyer as soon as possible. Your spouse will likely hire an attorney and can gain an advantage on you if you are not represented in divorce or limited divorce proceedings. Nothing in this blog constitutes legal advice. It’s important to talk to a Maryland alimony lawyer about your unique case, your options, and what you can do to limit spousal support. Please contact Randolph Rice as soon as possible for a free consultation at (410) 431-0911.