Alimony is a payment of money from one spouse/former spouse for the support of the other spouse/former spouse. In this post, we’ll discuss what it encompasses in the state of Maryland.
How is Alimony Awarded in Maryland?
In the state of Maryland, there are multiple forms of alimony including:
- Alimony pendente lite—Pendente Lite is a Latin phrase that means “pending litigation.” This form is paid while a divorce case is pending. Its purpose is to maintain the status quo (keep things the way they are). The amount paid depends on the reasonable needs of the person seeking alimony (income minus reasonable expenses) and the other party’s ability to pay (income minus reasonable expenses).
- Rehabilitative alimony (also known as “term alimony”) is the preferred type of alimony in Maryland. It is awarded for a limited period of time, until the person seeking payment obtains the education or training required to become self-supporting. The amount and length of time are determined by the court based on the income and reasonable needs of the person seeking it, the other party’s ability to pay (income minus reasonable needs), plus 12 other factors that a court must consider (discussed in the next section).
- Indefinite alimony—This has no fixed term and stops automatically on the death of either party or the remarriage of the person receiving it unless the parties agree otherwise. Indefinite alimony can only be changed or stopped by the court. It is only awarded under two scenarios:
- If because of age, illness, infirmity, or disability, the person seeking alimony cannot make substantial progress toward becoming self-supporting.
- Even if the person seeking alimony has made as much progress toward becoming self-supporting as possible, the standards of living between the parties are “unconscionably disparate”, or so different as to be shocking to the conscience. The starting point for determining whether this disparity exists is the income of the parties; however, the reasonable needs of the person seeking alimony are also considered, as well as factors from the alimony statute.
What Does the Court Consider?
According to The People’s Law Library of Maryland, when considering what form of alimony to grant, the courts must take into consideration the following factors:
- 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, including:
- All income and assets, including property that does not produce income to include:
- Any award made under §§ 8-205 and 8-208 of this article
- The nature and amount of the financial obligations of each party
- The right of each party to receive retirement benefits
- Whether the award would cause a spouse who is a resident of a related institution as defined in § 19-301 of the Health-General Article and from whom alimony is sought to become eligible for medical assistance earlier than would otherwise occur.
Technically, every factor is considered equally. However, courts often prioritize marriage duration, party ages, party standards of living, contributions to the marriage, and each party’s financial resources.
Complexity and The Factors to Consider
So what is alimony based on in Maryland? Because of the many factors to consider, it can be complex. There is no specific “formula” when it comes to determining how alimony is awarded. Unlike child support, there are no mandatory alimony guidelines in Maryland. There are a few guidelines programs available that may be used as a tool and presented to the court, but they are not binding. Thus, there are no alimony requirements in MD. The decision to award alimony (or not to award alimony) is at the court’s discretion. There is no way to predict what any given judge will do on any given day.
Who Gets Awarded in Maryland?
In most cases where courts have awarded indefinite alimony, the income of the person seeking it was usually ⅓ of or less than the other party. If the court finds that there is an unconscionable disparity, then the court may award indefinite alimony. If the court finds that there is no unconscionable disparity, the court may award fixed-term alimony or none at all.
Here at Meiselman Helfant & Wills, we are here to answer all of your questions about alimony and divorce in the state of Maryland. Contact us today!
* Please note, this article is meant to provide readers with information only. It is not intended to provide nor does it claim to be any form of legal counsel or advice.