Alimony is also called spousal support. When a divorce shortchanges one partner a judge may order the other to provide financial support. Our Baltimore divorce lawyer is sometimes asked ‘what qualifies you for alimony in Maryland?’
Alimony decisions are based on your financial needs. Alimony is not guaranteed every time a couple splits up. For alimony to be awarded one spouse must have a specific financial need and the other should have the ability to pay.
Talk to an experienced Baltimore alimony attorney about whether you qualify for spousal support. Baltimore family law attorney Randolph Rice looks at the options.
How Does Alimony Work in Maryland?
Alimony is a periodic payment made by one former spouse to the other. Alimony is meant to allow the party who receives it to become self-financing. One of the sad realities of divorce is one or both parties often end up worse off financially than when they were married. In some cases, one of the parties suffers disproportionately. The traditional example of alimony is that of a stay-at-home spouse who gave up their job to look after the kids and relied on their spouse’s larger income. Divorce can be devastating for spouses in this situation. Alimony is meant to soften the blow of divorce and help a party get back on a sound financial footing.
Under Md. Code, Family Law Title 11, spousal support is usually set for a limited period. It is “rehabilitative alimony” that allows a dependent spouse to become self-supporting.
Types of Alimony in Maryland
What qualifies you for alimony in Maryland is not a simple equation. Maryland offers three different types of alimony depending on the needs of the party requesting spousal support.
Alimony Pendente Lite
This is an interim payment. The court awards this alimony between the time you file for divorce and the time the divorce is finalized. This alimony is meant to maintain the status quo during the divorce proceedings. Although need is an important factor you will not automatically receive alimony pendente lite just because the separation hits you hard financially.
This is the most common type of alimony. It’s usually associated awarded for a finite period for you to get back onto your feet, get a new job or pass a school class. For example, the court may award you rehabilitative alimony for two years if that’s how long it will take you to complete a degree course and become more competitive in the job market. Rehabilitative alimony usually lasts no longer than 10 years.
Indefinite alimony has no cut off date. It’s typically awarded if there is a huge disparity in earning power between the former spouses. It may also be awarded if your age or disability affects your earning capacity. Alimony awards can be modified, extended, changed or terminated in the future. This may happen when an event changes the circumstances of one of the parties such as if they re-marry or come into an inheritance. Judges rarely award indefinite alimony.
When is Alimony Awarded in Maryland?
Alimony is typically awarded only before the end of a marriage in Maryland. If you fail to claim for spousal support during the divorce process, you cannot go back after the divorce is finalized to make an alimony claim.
If you signed an agreement relating to alimony as part of a voluntary separation agreement, an annulment or a limited divorce in Maryland, the court is bound by the agreement unless it was drawn up under extreme circumstances like duress. A voluntary agreement between the spouses is often broader than the order a court could make and may cover issues like mortgage payments and car payments. The courts limit alimony to periodic monetary payments.
An alimony figure can also be reached under a limited divorce which has the same rights as a legal separation agreement.
Alimony payments can be made to a husband or a wife under Maryland law.
Factors that Qualify You for Alimony
The court considers a wide range of factors when it is making alimony decisions. It has considerable discretion. The main factors the court considers are:
- The reasons for your divorce
- Your age and mental health
- Your financial situation during the marriage, at the time of the alimony claim, and in the future
- The disparity in earnings between the parties
- The standard of living you enjoyed during the marriage
- How long your marriage lasted. One standard sometimes used for alimony duration calculations is that one year of alimony is paid every three years of marriage
- Custody of any children, and any child support
- The time it takes for the party applying for alimony to find suitable employment, education or training
- All income and assets the spouses shared including property not producing income
- Non-monetary contributions made by the spouse applying for alimony such as time spent bringing up children
- Each party’s entitlement to retirement benefits
- Financial contributions made by the parties during the marriage
- The ability of the party who would fund alimony to make payments
- The ability of the party seeking alimony to eventually become self-sufficient
Is Marital Fault a Factor in Maryland Alimony Considerations?
Marital fault is a factor in alimony calculations in Maryland. In the case of “at-fault” divorces which can be caused by infidelity, adultery, or abuse the at-fault party can end up paying more “punitive” alimony.
Baltimore Alimony Attorney Offering Free Consultations
The question of what qualifies you for alimony in Maryland is not a straightforward one. The judge considers many factors and there is no set formula. Although alimony is traditionally associated with the scenario in which a breakup leaves one party impoverished, you can earn a large amount of money and still receive alimony if your spouse earned considerably more as demonstrated in a recent case in the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland. Alimony is not a factor in all divorce cases. Unfortunately, some spouses lose out on payments they are entitled to because they don’t talk to a Baltimore divorce lawyer.
At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice, our Baltimore family attorney will look at all the factors that go into spousal support and advise you of whether you qualify for alimony. He can prepare your case and take it before a judge. Please call us for a consultation at (410) 431-0911.