Montgomery County Alimony Lawyers
Alimony is a payment of money from one spouse/former spouse for the support of the other spouse/former spouse. There are three types of alimony in Maryland: 1) pendente lite alimony; 2) fixed-term alimony, also known as transitional or rehabilitative alimony; and 3) indefinite alimony.
Pendente Lite is a Latin phrase that means “pending litigation.” Pendente lite alimony is alimony that is paid while a divorce case is pending. The purpose of pendente lite alimony is to maintain the status quo (keep things the way they are). The amount of pendente lite alimony 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).
Fixed-term alimony is the preferred type of alimony in Maryland. Fixed-term alimony is an award of alimony for a limited period of time. Its purpose is to enable the person seeking alimony to obtain whatever education or training is required so that the person can 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 alimony, the other party’s ability to pay (income minus reasonable needs), plus 12 factors from the alimony statute that a court must consider. Those factors include (but are not limited to) the ability of the person seeking alimony to be partly or wholly self-supporting, the time necessary to obtain training or education so that the person seeking alimony can find suitable employment, the age and health of each party, the length of the marriage, the contributions (monetary and non-monetary) of each party to the marriage, the reason for the breakdown of the marriage, the standard of living established during the marriage, and the financial resources of each party.
Indefinite alimony is alimony that has no fixed term. Indefinite alimony stops automatically on the death of either party or the remarriage of the person receiving alimony unless the parties agree otherwise. Alimony can also be changed or stopped by the court. Indefinite alimony may be awarded under two scenarios: 1) If because of age, illness, infirmity, or disability the person seeking alimony cannot make substantial progress toward becoming self-supporting; or 2) 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”.
To receive indefinite alimony under the first scenario, the person seeking alimony must be unable to become self-supporting due to age, illness, or disability. To receive indefinite alimony under the second scenario, the standards of living between the parties must be unconscionably disparate. An unconscionable disparity means that the standards of living between the parties are so different as to be shocking to the conscience. The starting point for determining whether an unconscionable disparity exists is the income of the parties; however, the difference in income is not the only factor that a court considers.
Again, the amount and length of time of an alimony award are determined based on the income and reasonable needs of the person seeking alimony, the other party’s ability to pay (income minus reasonable needs), plus 12 factors from the alimony statute that a court must consider. In most cases where courts have awarded indefinite alimony, the income of the person seeking alimony was usually 1/3 or less than the other party. If the court finds that there is an unconscionable disparity, then the court may award indefinite. If the court finds that there is no unconscionable disparity, the court may award fixed-term alimony or no alimony at all.
There is no specific “formula” when it comes to determining alimony. Unlike child support where there are mandatory child support guidelines, there are no mandatory alimony guidelines in Maryland. There are a few alimony guidelines programs available that may be used as a tool and presented to the court, but the guidelines are not mandatory and are not binding. 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.
Because of the many factors to consider, alimony can be very complex. The lawyers at Meiselman Helfant and Wills have many years of experience handling complicated alimony cases. We have represented husbands and wives, payors and recipients, at trial and on appeal. Contact or visit Meiselman Helfant & Wills to assist you in understanding and navigating the complicated issue of alimony.