What is the Maryland Approach to Alimony?
Alimony is a type of support payment available to a spouse during divorce proceeding and/or after completing their divorce. These support payments are designed to address financial imbalances between formerly married spouses and promote future self-sufficiency. Alimony can be awarded to either spouse, even if that spouse contributed to the grounds for divorce.
When is it Possible to Obtain Alimony?
Maryland Code of Family Law Section 11-101 explains when it is possible to obtain alimony. Under this section, a Maryland court may award alimony to either spouse:
- Pursuant to a legal request for alimony;
- As part of a court order granting annulment; or
- As part of a court order granting limited or absolute divorce.
That being said, the Maryland courts must honor any valid agreement or contract between the spouses. If the spouses mutually agreed to waive any right to alimony, then the Maryland courts are unable to award alimony.
How is Amount & Duration of Alimony Determined?
Maryland Code of Family Law Section 11-106 establishes the rules for determining the amount and duration of alimony. Generally speaking, there is a time limit on alimony, lasting only as long as necessary to help a spouse become self-sufficient. Though a Maryland court may award alimony for an indefinite time period if:
- The person receiving alimony cannot reasonably become self-sufficient, due to age, disability, illness, or infirmity; or
- There is an unreasonable gap in the living standards between the former spouses.
Section 11-106 also details the factors used to determine the amount of alimony. The Maryland courts must ensure that an award of alimony is fair and equitable by focusing on the following factors:
- Capability of the party requesting alimony to become self-sufficient;
- Time and effort needed for that party to become self-sufficient;
- Standard of living the former spouses established during the marriage;
- Duration of the marriage and contributions of each party;
- Age and physical and mental health of each party;
- Any valid agreement or contract that the parties entered into; and
- Various other factors designed to ensure a fair and equitable award.
Can Alimony Be Modified or Extended?
Maryland Code of Family Law Section 11-107 provides the rules for modifying the amount or extending the duration of alimony. The Maryland courts may increase or decrease the amount of alimony, if doing so would be fair and equitable.
On a related note, Section 11-107 authorizes the Maryland courts to extend the duration of alimony if:
- The party receiving alimony requests an extension before alimony expires; and
- Failing to extending the duration of alimony would be harsh and inequitable.
Do You Need Legal Help?
If you need legal assistance with alimony or other aspects of Maryland family law, it can be incredibly worthwhile to contact a qualified family law attorney. The Bel Air divorce attorneys at Schlaich & Thompson, Chartered have more than 60 years of combined legal experience in family and criminal law, including alimony. If you need legal help, contact us today for an initial consultation.