Alimony: What You Need to Know

Those who are going through a divorce in Maryland may want to pursue alimony, and should know the specific types of alimony and rules in their state.

What is alimony?

Alimony is a periodic payment made from one spouse to the other in order to financially provide for the receiving spouse. Alimony may also be referred to as "spousal support" or maintenance.

Unlike child support, which is paid from one parent to the other for the benefit of the parties' child or children, alimony is paid from one spouse to the other to support the receiving spouse as he or she transitions into a new life.

There is no legal obligation to pay alimony unless there is a court order or an executed agreement.

What are the different types of alimony in Maryland?

Maryland law provides for three different types of alimony, each with its own rules:

1. Pendente lite alimony, or temporary alimony;

2. Rehabilitative alimony; and

3. Indefinite alimony.

Pendente lite alimony is a temporary award of support that a court can order to provide the receiving spouse with financial assistance while the case is pending. The purpose of pendente lite alimony is to maintain the status quo of the parties while their divorce litigation is pending. In awarding pendente lite alimony, the court considers the dependent spouse's needs and the ability of the other party to pay. Just because a spouse receives pendente lite alimony does not guarantee that he or she will receive either rehabilitative or indefinite alimony from the court in its final decision.

Rehabilitative alimony is alimony that the court awards for a set period of time. The purpose of rehabilitative alimony is to provide financial support to the receiving spouse so that he or she may become self-supporting, which may include costs for training and education.

Indefinite alimony is awarded in cases where it is unreasonable to expect a dependent spouse to become self-supporting even with further education or job training or, even if the party seeking alimony has earnings but the parties' standard of living remains unconscionably disparate i.e. the party receiving alimony despite the earnings will have a significantly inferior standard of living when compared to the other spouse.

Does the law favor a specific type of alimony?

Yes. The law favors rehabilitative alimony over indefinite alimony.

What does the court consider in awarding alimony?

Unlike in child support cases, there are no "guidelines" to determine alimony. Rather, the court considers the statutory factors listed below in determining the amount and duration of an alimony award:

- The ability of the party seeking alimony to be wholly or partly self-supporting;

- The time necessary for the party seeking alimony to gain sufficient education or training to enable that party to find suitable employment;

- The standard of living that the parties established during their marriage;

- The duration of the marriage;

- The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family;

- The circumstances that contributed to the estrangement of the parties;

- The age of each party;

- The physical and mental condition of each party;

- 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;

- Any agreements between the parties; and

- The financial needs and financial resources of each party.

Can an alimony award be modified?

It depends. When alimony is ordered by the court, it is always modifiable. When the parties sign a written agreement which provides for the payment of alimony it can be modified so long as the agreement does not contain a clause that specifically states that alimony is non-modifiable. Without such a provision, alimony is modifiable.

A court will not modify alimony unless a party can prove there has been a material change in circumstance from the time of the award or written agreement until the present. Either party may allege that a material change in circumstance.

When does alimony terminate?

Unless an executed written agreement between the parties states otherwise, alimony terminates upon:

- The death of either party;

- The re-marriage of the spouse receiving alimony; or

- If the court finds termination is necessary to avoid a harsh and inequitable result.

What are the tax implications of alimony?

Until December 31, 2018, alimony is tax deductible by the person paying the alimony and taxable income to the person receiving the alimony.

For agreements executed after December 31, 2018, or court orders entered after December 31, 2018, alimony will no longer be tax deductible by the person paying the alimony and will no longer be taxable income to the person receiving the alimony.

Can I receive alimony?

Each case is unique and presents different challenges and opportunities. In order to ensure that you get the best possible legal advice for your individual case, you may find it beneficial to seek consultation with and representation by an attorney in your local area who practices family law and has experience with these matters.

Jeff Greenblatt has extensive experience in all areas of family law. If you would like to set up an initial consultation, please contact him at (240) 399-7894.