Alimony is a periodic payment by one former spouse to the other. Alimony's purpose is to provide an opportunity for the recipient spouse to become self-supporting. If alimony is awarded, it is usually “rehabilitative alimony” for a certain period of time to allow a dependent spouse to become self-supporting.

Read the Law: Md. Code, Family Law Title 11

Generally, alimony can be awarded only before the final ending of the marriage. Failure to make a claim for alimony as part of a divorce means that you cannot come back later after the marriage has ended and start an alimony claim. The Maryland Court of Appeals has noted "[t]he longstanding rule in Maryland… that the right to claim alimony is extinguished at the time of the severance of the marital relationship."

Read the cases: Altman v. Altman, 282 Md. 483 (1978)Upham v. Upham, 238 Md. 261 (1965)

If you signed an agreement about alimony, the court is likely to be bound by that agreement. This means that the court will not be able to change the agreement as part of your divorce. An agreement between spouses can be broader than what the court might decide if asked to award alimony on its own. For example, the court will only award a periodic monetary payment; however, an agreement between the divorcing spouses may cover payment of a mortgage or other type of support.

As a result of Maryland’s equal rights amendment either a husband or a wife in a marriage may be required by the court to pay alimony.

Read the law: Md. Code, Family Law § 11-101(b)

 

Types of alimony

Alimony pendente lite - A court can award this type of alimony between the time you file for divorce (and make a request for alimony) and the time the divorce is final. The purpose of this type of alimony is to maintain the status quo during the divorce. It does not necessarily mean that you will be awarded alimony after the divorce if there is a finding of need.

Read the law: Md. Code, Family Law, § 11-102

Rehabilitative alimony - This is the type of alimony most likely to be awarded. Usually it is associated with a time-limited goal such as going back to school. For example, a court may award you rehabilitative alimony for the two years that it takes you to go back to school and finish a degree program that will enable you to better support yourself. While results will vary based on your individual circumstances, a good range for you to use in this estimate is an average of 3-10 years of rehabilitative alimony (if your situation matches the criteria).

Indefinite alimony - This is a relatively rare type of alimony awarded with no specific end point. You may receive indefinite alimony if (because of your age, an illness, or a disability) you cannot (1) make reasonable progress toward supporting yourself or (2) even if you can make reasonable progress; your ex-spouse’s standard of living is "unconscionably disparate" from yours. "Unconscionably disparate" means that there is a very large and unfair difference between your living standards. Alimony awards may be modified, extended, or changed or ended in the future. This may happen if one of the ex-spouses asks the court to consider the alimony amount in the future and circumstances have changed.

Read the Law: Md. Code, Family Law § 11–106

Read the Case: Solomon v. Solomon, 383 Md. 176 (2004)Boemio v. Boemio, 414 Md. 118 (2010)

 

Factors the Court Will Consider

The court will consider a long list of factors in deciding if you or your spouse should get alimony. These factors include:

  • Length of your marriage;
  • Your financial situation during the marriage, now and in the future;
  • Your age, physical and mental health; AND
  • The reasons for the divorce.

See below for a full list of the factors. The importance of each factor depends on individual circumstances. Judges (and magistrates) have very broad discretion.

Factors the court will consider in alimony decisions - the court shall consider all the factors for a fair and equitable award, including: but not limited to:

  • The ability of the parties 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 of the 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 agreement between the parties;
  • The financial needs and financial resources of each party, including:
  • All income and assets, including all property that does not produce income;
  • Any monetary award concerning property and award of possession and use of the family property;
  • The nature and amount of the financial obligations of each party;
  • The right of each party to receive retirement benefits; and 
  • Whether the award would cause a paying spouse or a spouse who is a resident of a care facility with more than two patients to become eligible for medical assistance earlier than would otherwise occur.

Read the Law: Md. Code, Family Law § 11–106

Although the court is not required to use a formal checklist, it must demonstrate consideration of all necessary factors, including any that are not expressly listed in this section. Such "other factors" can be defined as any factors that the court may deem necessary or appropriate in order to arrive at a fair and equitable award of alimony.

Read the Case: Solomon v. Solomon, 383 Md. 176 (2004)Boemio v. Boemio, 414 Md. 118 (2010)

 

Amount of Alimony Award

The amount of the alimony award depends on the specific facts of each situation. It is up to the court to determine the amount of the alimony award; however, the court must consider statutory and other factors when determining the amount of alimony to be awarded.

Read the Law: Md. Code, Family Law § 11–106

Read the Case: Solomon v. Solomon, 383 Md. 176 (2004)Boemio v. Boemio, 414 Md. 118 (2010)

 

Tax Consequences of Alimony

When considering alimony, it is important to look at the tax consequences of the payment.  Significant changes to the tax treatment of alimony took effect January 1, 2019, with the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

Agreements prior to January 1, 2019: alimony is usually taxable to the recipient and deductible from the income of the payer.

Agreements after January 1, 2019: alimony is not deductible to the payor, and is not income to the receiving spouse. Modifications of alimony agreements after January 1, 2019, will receive the same treatment as long as the modification:

  • changes the terms of the alimony, and
  • states that alimony is not deductible to the payor, and is not income to the receiving spouse.

Read the Law: Md. Code, Tax-General § 10-101

 

Attorneys Fees

Closely related to alimony is the obligation to pay attorney’s fees. Under present law, one party can be ordered to pay money for the other’s lawyer and for all costs closely related to bringing an action for divorce, depending on the financial circumstances of the parties. This includes court costs, and in some cases, even the cost of a private investigator.

Read the Law: Md. Code, Family Law § 11-110

 

Enforcement of Alimony Award

An order, award, or decree relating to alimony or disposition of property may be enforced by contempt proceedings. Contempt proceedings are governed by the Maryland Rules. When a person fails to comply with a judgment prohibiting or mandating action, the court may, in appropriate circumstances, hold the person in contempt.  

Read the Law: Md. Rule 2-648

 

Termination of Alimony

Unless agreed to otherwise, alimony ends on (1) the death of either party, (2) the recipient’s marriage, or (3) if the court finds that termination of alimony is necessary for fairness (avoid a harsh and inequitable result).

Read the Law: Md. Code, Family Law § 11–108

Source:  People’s Law Library of Maryland

Certifications

9.1Robin Jean Gray IIUSA

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