John S. Weaver, Weaver Law LLC Rockville, Maryland Family Law Attorney Serving MontgomeryCounty, FrederickCounty, Howard County, and Carroll County
Alimony refers to certain payments made by one spouse to the other spouse. In Maryland a court may order one spouse to pay the other spouse regular monthly payments of the three basic types of alimony: temporary alimony (alimony pendente lite), which is a temporary payment made while the case is pending; rehabilitative alimony, which is for a definite period of months/years to allow a party to become self-supporting; and indefinite alimony (sometimes referred to as permanent alimony) which is for an indefinite or indeterminate period. Sometimes the court may make an award of both rehabilitative and indefinite alimony. And although a self-supporting spouse may not be entitled to rehabilitative alimony, the court may still award indefinite alimony under certain circumstances.
Unlike determinations of child support, there are no statutorily mandated calculations or guidelines that courts follow. Thus, in a certain sense, alimony is unpredictable and the same facts may result in completely different decisions by different courts or even different judges in the same court. However, there are certain policies underlying the award of alimony (e.g., parties should become self-supporting; alimony is not a lifetime pension, etc.) and there are specific statutory factors the court must consider in making any alimony award:
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 education or training to enable that party to find suitable employment;
3.the standard of living that the parties established during the 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;
11.the financial needs and financial resources of each party, including all income and assets, including property that does not produce income; any monetary award or use and possession award; the nature and amount of the financial obligations of each party; and the right of each party to receive retirement benefits;
12.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.
The Alimony statute recognizes two exceptional circumstances in which a circuit court may award alimony for an indefinite period:
1.due to age, illness, infirmity, or disability, the party seeking alimony cannot reasonably be expected to make substantial progress toward becoming self-supporting; or
2.even after the party seeking alimony will have made as much progress toward becoming self-supporting as can reasonably be expected, the respective standards of living of the parties will be unconscionably disparate.
Alimony awarded by a court is never "permanent:" all court ordered alimony terminates on the death of either party or the remarriage of the recipient. Alimony ordered by court is also subject to modification as "circumstances and justice" requires, and to court-ordered termination to avoid a "harsh and inequitable result." If the court awards rehabilitative alimony, the court may extend the period of alimony to avoid a "harsh and inequitable result." Thus, court ordered alimony remains subject to modification and lacks the certainty that divorcing spouses often prefer.
When parties negotiate an agreement for alimony they can provide terms that suit their situation, such as making the alimony terms not subject to any court modification, or perhaps limiting the modification to certain specified extraordinary circumstances. There are many reasons that parties may prefer to reach a settlement rather than leave the decision to the court.
Whenever alimony or spousal support has been requested in litigation, the parties must file a current Financial Statement (Long Form) under oath setting forth income, expenses, assets, and liabilities (Rule 9-202(e); and 9-203(a)).
Pendente lite alimony. In a proceeding for divorce, alimony or annulment of marriage, the court may award alimony pendente lite to either party. Generally, a temporary alimony award is based primarily on considerations of the reasonable needs of the recipient spouse, balanced against the other spouse's ability to pay. The factors a court must consider in making an award of rehabilitative or indefinite alimony are not required considerations in an alimony pendente lite proceeding.
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John S. Weaver, Of Counsel
Z Family Law, LLC 51 Monroe Street, Suite 1501, Rockville, MD 20850