Maryland Divorce FAQ’s – Alimony

This is about alimony after divorce in Maryland, including when courts order alimony, how the amount of alimony is set in Maryland, and how and when Maryland courts stop alimony once it’s awarded.

This information is from James J. Gross, the DivorceInfo Network Lawyer for Maryland. Click here to visit his firm’s web site.

When does alimony get paid?

In Maryland, alimony is based upon the relative needs and resources of the parties. If you do not get alimony at the time of the divorce, you cannot get alimony later on. Technically, either party can get alimony, but it is rare for men to be awarded alimony.

Alimony can be rehabilitative or indefinite in Maryland. Rehabilitate means to restore a party to an economic functioning level, which means earning a reasonable living. The public policy is to assist the former spouse to be self supporting. Rehabilitative alimony is temporary, so it is for a specific time period.

If rehabilitative alimony cannot bring about rehabilitation, for example when a spouse has a disability, then the court can, in proper circumstances, order alimony on a long-term or indefinite basis. In Maryland, indefinite alimony may also be granted when the incomes of the spouses are “unconscionably disparate”, meaning far apart.

You can also ask the Court for pendente lite alimony, meaning temporary spousal support during the litigation. The test for pendente lite alimony is more strict than permanent alimony. It is needs of the party seeking alimony and ability of the other party to pay. Needs is defined as necessities and suit moneys in Maryland.

How does the court decide how much?

There is no formula for setting the amount or duration of alimony; instead, the determination of alimony rests in the discretion of the trial court. The legislature has set out specific criteria for the court to consider in alimony awards in Maryland, which are:

* income from salaries, investments, etc;

* pension profit-sharing, and retirement plans;

* education and ability of the parties, as well as opportunities for additional education;

* length of the marriage;

* age, physical condition, and mental condition of the two parties;

* whether or not one of the parties should stay at home with the child of the parties instead of working;

* separate property a person has;

* marital property a person has;

* standard of living the parties enjoyed during the marriage;

* tangible and intangible contributions (contributions of a homemaker and the tangible and intangible contributions of one party to the education, age, or increased earning power of the other party);

* fault of one of the parties leading to the breakup of the marriage (if the court wants to);

* tax consequences; and

* other factors that the court considers appropriate. Maryland Code, Family Law Article § 11-106(b).

What does it take to change alimony?

The court can change alimony, unless the parties have agreed otherwise in a separation agreement. A change in alimony generally requires a showing of a fundamental change in circumstances. For example, alimony can be increased because the payor’s fortunes have improved. Or alimony can be decreased when the payor’s income has taken a downturn, for reasons the court believes are not self?imposed.

When does alimony stop?

Alimony stops on the date agreed by the parties in a separation agreement. It also stops when the payor spouse dies, when the payee spouse remarries, or when the payee spouse cohabitates with someone of the opposite sex. Cohabitation means something more than simply having sex with each other, or even spending a night together. It takes more of a relationship similar to marriage, like occupying the same residence, as evidenced by things like delivery of mail and voting registration, storage of clothing, eating meals together, etc.

Other issues in Maryland: