Requesting and Obtaining Alimony
Alimony can be awarded to either spouse on a complaint for divorce from the date of filing. Alimony may be awarded to a spouse while an action for annulment, alimony, or divorce is pending (also called pendente lite alimony) as well as at the time of final divorce. At the time of final divorce, an award of statutory or indefinite alimony can be made.
If alimony is resolved by a written agreement, reached by the parties, the Court is bound by that agreement as it relates to alimony. If the parties’ agreement specifically states that alimony is not modifiable, then the Court may not modify the alimony at any time in the future. However, if an alimony award is made by the Court, then either party can attempt to modify the alimony in the future.
Duration of Alimony Award
In Maryland, the Court’s focus is usually on rehabilitation-an award of alimony for finite duration and set amount until the economically dependent spouse can be self-sufficient. However, if the indefinite factors (discussed below) are met, the Court may award indefinite alimony.
There are alimony guidelines but they are not statutory in Maryland like the child support guidelines are. The Courts in Maryland are permitted to consider guidelines recently created by organizations such as the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) as well as the Kaufman Guidelines. However, the Courts must still consider all the reasonable statutory factors as well as “all other factors necessary for a fair and equitable award.”
Unless the parties otherwise agree, by statute, alimony terminates upon the death of a party, marriage of the recipient or a court finds that termination “is necessary to avoid a harsh inequitable result.”
In making an alimony award of specific duration and not indefinite, the Court must consider “all factors necessary for a fair and equitable award,” including:
- The ability to be self-supporting or at least partly self-supporting
- The time necessary to gain suitable employment and gain sufficient education and training
- The standard of living for the parties during marriage
- The length of the marriage
- Each of the parties’ contributions to the overall well-being of the family (monetarily and otherwise)
- The circumstances surrounding the parties’ estrangement
- Each party’s age and their physical and mental conditions
- 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
- The financial needs and resources of each party
- Whether the award would affect State Assistance
The Court may award indefinite alimony if the Court finds that:
- Due to illness, age, infirmity, or disability, the recipient cannot reasonably be affected to make substantial progress towards becoming self-supporting
- Even after progress is made towards becoming more self-supporting, the standards of living of the parties will be “unconscionably disparate.”