If you are considering or are in the middle of a divorce in Maryland, you may be worried about how alimony will affect your case. Alimony, or payments made to a spouse during or after a divorce, can be a complex subject and factors ranging from a spouse’s ability to work to the other spouse’s ability to pay alimony will influence the court’s decision to award alimony and for how much.
Types Of Alimony In Maryland
Understanding how alimony works might come into play during your divorce can help you to be better prepared to start your new, separated life and make sound financial decisions.
In Maryland, there are multiple types of alimony that are available as determined by a judge.
Pendente lite alimony, also known as temporary support, is one of the most frequent types awarded. It is meant to cover some of the financial strain that occurs during the divorce process, and it lasts for a limited time until the judge either issues a new alimony order or finalizes the divorce.
Rehabilitative alimony is more extensive and is intended to support the lower-earning spouse until that spouse is able to find employment, be fully supporting, finish schooling or for other reasons. Its purpose is not to equalize the financial status of the parties. Many families rely on one spouse to stay home and care for the household, children, or other responsibilities, which means that spouse has typically removed themselves for a time from the job market.
This can make employment difficult after separation, and rehabilitative alimony is awarded during the time that this spouse undergoes any job training, education, and interviewing necessary to find work.
Indefinite alimony is the longest-lasting type of alimony, and it is awarded for an indefinite period if the lower-earning spouse is unable to become financially independent. This may occur as a result of age, illness, disability, or a variety of other factors, but usually, the need for indefinite alimony arises where the parties’ incomes and financial lifestyles have become unconscionably disparate from each other.
If either spouse dies or if the supported spouse marries again, the indefinite alimony automatically ends. The paying spouse can also seek either termination or reduction of indefinite alimony for good cause. Of course, the receiving spouse can also seek to increase the amount of indefinite alimony for good cause.
Factors Which Influence The Ability To Qualify For Alimony
Pendente lite alimony requires the Court to look at the needs of the party seeking the alimony and the ability of the other spouse to pay alimony. For rehabilitative alimony, a judge must find that one spouse needs financial help and that the other spouse can pay. There are a series of statutory factors the judge first has to consider.
For indefinite alimony, there are additional considerations, such as whether the incomes of the parties are unconscionably disparate, as well as whether there are health/medical reasons for an indefinite award. After this has been determined, a number of factors go into deciding how much of an alimony payment the higher-earning spouse will be responsible for paying.
Ability To Become Self-Supporting
One factor in the award of rehabilitative alimony is the ability of the supported spouse to become self-supporting and how long that may take. If a spouse will struggle to find employment due to a long hiatus from the workforce during the marriage, the supporting spouse may be required to pay for longer or to pay more in total to assist the lower-earning spouse. However, this is balanced by the supporting spouse’s needs, as the court also considers the higher earner’s ability to remain financially solvent while paying alimony.
Standard Of Living During The Marriage
Next, the court will also consider the marriage itself. Factors for consideration include how long the marriage lasted and what standard of living both parties enjoyed during the partnership. The judge will examine how much each spouse contributed, both monetarily and otherwise, to the health and wellbeing of the marriage and the quality of life therein.
Circumstances Which Led To The Divorce & Each Spouse’s Health
Other considerations that the judge may evaluate include the circumstances that led to the divorce and how each spouse is currently faring in regards to health, mental wellness, and age. In Maryland, if an alimony payment would cause a paying spouse to become eligible for medical assistance earlier than required, a judge must also include this as a factor.
There is no automatic bar to receiving alimony if the party seeking alimony is guilty of any marital fault, such as adultery.
Receiving Alimony Payments
Once the amount of alimony is set by the court, the judge will decide how it is paid out. Common arrangements are for payments biweekly or monthly, although other options do exist. There are extremely limited circumstances where the Court may opt to require a lump sum payment in lieu of periodically spaced alimony.
The court may include an earnings withholding order with the spousal support agreement, which prompts the paying spouse’s employer to deduct the alimony directly from the spouse’s paycheck. Employers who do not complete this task are subject to a fine. Similarly, if a spouse stops paying, the court can enforce the support order directly and demand payment; failure to pay could even result in jail time and fines upon the filing of a petition for contempt.
Speak To A Professional Maryland Family Law Attorney
Navigating the complex process of securing or paying out alimony during a divorce can be overwhelming since everything in your life is changing quickly. Simple decisions that you make in your divorce can have serious lasting implications for your case, which is why working with a skilled family law attorney is critical.
The highly experienced family law attorneys at SIEGELLAW want to help you in developing an alimony agreement that works for your situation so that you can focus on getting back on your feet after your separation. Reach out to speak to an experienced Maryland family law attorney who can help you manage your divorce by calling (410) 792-2300 or by requesting a consultation online.