Defining Alimony and Spousal Support
Going through a divorce is a challenging and emotional experience.
You’re dealing with a multitude of emotions that create stress. On top of this, the question of money looms like a storm cloud. While terms like spousal support, alimony and equitable distribution of property are commonplace in our society, the fact remains that not many people have a firm grasp on what they entail.
Before learning how spousal support and alimony are awarded, it’s a good idea to contact a divorce lawyer who can guide you through this process. In Baltimore, there are lawyers who are in solo practice, or part of a legal group or firm, that handle divorce proceedings.
Before you settle on a lawyer, do your research. There are a variety of websites that provide insight on individual lawyers, and you can also check with organizations such as the Baltimore County Bar Association or the Maryland State Bar Association. Don’t forget to ask for referrals when you’re interviewing a divorce lawyer.
Under Maryland Law, you must first look, at Family Law, § 11-106, Amount of award, duration. This section contains all of the factors that the Circuit Courts of Maryland consider when making a determination of whether to enter an alimony award and for how long. Maryland does not recognize spousal support like other states. In Maryland, you may request alimony pendent lite, (pending litigation). You may file for a limited divorce, after you have separated but have not been living separate and apart for more than a year. You may request a hearing on alimony prior to the grounds for divorce are litigated.
At this hearing, the courts consider the following factors:
In making the determination, the court shall consider all the factors necessary for a fair and equitable award, including:
(1) the ability of the party seeking alimony to be wholly or partly self-supporting;
(2) the time necessary for the party seeking alimony to gain sufficient education or training to enable that party to find suitable employment;
(3) the standard of living that the parties established during their marriage;
(4) the duration of the marriage;
(5) the contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family;
(6) the circumstances that contributed to the estrangement of the parties;
(7) the age of each party;
(8) the physical and mental condition of each party;
(9) 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;
(10) any agreement between the parties;
(11) the financial needs and financial resources of each party, including:
(i) all income and assets, including property that does not produce income;
(iii) the nature and amount of the financial obligations of each party; and
(iv) the right of each party to receive retirement benefits; and
(12) whether the award would cause a spouse who is a resident of a related institution as defined in § 19-301 of the Health-General Article and from whom alimony is sought to become eligible for medical assistance earlier than would otherwise occur.
Award for indefinite period
The court may award alimony for an indefinite period, if the court finds that:
(1) due to age, illness, infirmity, or disability, the party seeking alimony cannot reasonably be expected to make substantial progress toward becoming self-supporting; or
(2) even after the party seeking alimony will have made as much progress toward becoming self-supporting as can reasonably be expected, the respective standards of living of the parties will be unconscionably disparate.
The Maryland Courts favor rehabilitative alimony or short term alimony that will last for a period of years to allow a spouse to receive training or additional skills in which to achieve or start a career in which they can support themselves.
Unfortunately, there is no set formula in which attorneys or the spouses can use to predict the amount and duration of any alimony award. Alimony awards are fact specific and differ for most everyone.
When determining the division of your marital assets, the court looks at all of your property accumulated during the marriage. This would normally include real property (houses) pensions, cars, bank accounts and furniture. Essentially, virtually anything of value.
The marital estate may be examined by the court before determining how all of the assets will be divided. Remember that the court will base part of its decision on whether or not one spouse will be forced to liquidate assets in order to maintain a reasonable lifestyle. Maryland attempts to divide the marital property fairly and evenly except in cases of large disparities of income. Maryland also only takes into consideration the net asset value of all marital property. If the spouses marital debt exceeds their asset value, then the courts will consider the spouses insolvent and not divide the marital debt.
Temporary spousal support (Alimony, Pendente Lite and child support are usually provided while a divorce case is pending. This ensures that a spouse who might not be employed, and any children, is receiving the proper amount of income and benefits while the other details of a divorce are being worked out.
Another route you may experience is for the court to order support be paid retroactive to the date the divorce complaint was filed. It’s best to confer with a divorce lawyer about a retroactive spousal support payment and how it may affect you. Alimony and child support are crucial parts to any divorce. A divorce lawyer is key in making sure you – and your children – receive the proper amount of compensation to continue to live the lives you were accustomed to.
While divorce isn’t an enjoyable experience, hiring a competent divorce attorney, and knowing what is rightfully yours in regard to alimony, can help ensure a future that is free of financial worry.