Understanding Maryland Alimony Laws

Alimony is the court-mandated payment of spousal support.  It is distinct from child support and may be awarded at a court’s discretion in an attempt to return the disadvantaged spouse to his or her pre-divorce financial state.  After all, while the marriage lasted, one spouse is likely to have needed the other’s financial support to make the family finances work.

In many jurisdictions, alimony is calculated according to a codified formula or by a set of guidelines.  In the latter type of jurisdiction, a judge may literally award alimony by looking at a chart and deciding whether he or she feels the chart’s recommendation is appropriate.

Maryland divorce attorneys know all too well that Maryland alimony laws are nowhere near as straight-forward.  Divorce clients often walk into a Maryland family law practice with the following common questions:  “Will alimony will be awarded?”  “If so, how much will be awarded?”  “For how long?”  Nothing contained in this article can substitute for personalized advice from an attorney.  Nonetheless, the following is a brief overview of Maryland alimony law.

Maryland recognizes and awards two types of alimony.  The first is “alimony pendente lite,” which may be viewed as temporary alimony awarded for the duration of the divorce proceedings.  In many cases, alimony pendente lite may be awarded to maintain the disadvantaged spouse’s financial status quo while the case is unresolved.  However, it does not necessarily mean that it will last beyond the proceedings.

The other type of alimony in Maryland is permanent alimony.  It is by no means mandatory.  A court may award it only when it finds that alimony is necessary for the disadvantaged spouse.  Depending on their financial contributions, either spouse may be required to pay alimony to the other.  Alimony must requested prior to the dissolution of the marriage.

Maryland judges will not award alimony for any one reason.  Rather, Maryland law provides a list of factors which, in conjunction with one another, might persuade a judge to award it.  These factors, codified at Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 11-106(b), are:

(1)   the ability of the party seeking alimony to be wholly or partly self-supporting;
(2)   the time necessary for the party seeking alimony to gain sufficient education or training to enable that party to find suitable employment;
(3)   the standard of living that the parties established during their marriage;
(4)   the duration of the marriage;
(5)   the contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family;
(6)   the circumstances that contributed to the estrangement of the parties;
(7)   the age of each party;
(8)   the physical and mental condition of each party;
(9)   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;
(10)   any agreement between the parties; and
(11)   the financial needs and financial resources of each party, including:
(i)     all income and assets, including property that does not produce income;
(ii)     any monetary award or use and possession award
(iii)   the nature and amount of the financial obligations of each party; and
(iv)     the right of each party to receive retirement benefits;
(12)   whether the award could cause a spouse who is a resident of a related institution as defined in the statue relating to health care facilities (§ 19-301 of the Health-General Article) and from whom alimony is sought to become eligible for medical assistance earlier than would otherwise occur.

Only a Maryland family lawyer can help you evaluate which of these factors apply to your case, and which factors might be accorded more weight based on the circumstances.  Don’t pass up this vital opportunity to understand your case.

See Related Blog Posts:

Helping to Win Custody Disputes

Dividing Marital Property

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