Alimony is a monetary award payable by one spouse to the other during or after a divorce. In Maryland, the court may award alimony to a spouse who shows financial need or if the court determines it is appropriate for other reasons.
The goal of an alimony award is to maintain the standard of living each spouse was accustomed to during the marriage. However, the recipient spouse can’t rely on alimony to underwrite the marital lifestyle forever; courts expect both spouses to become self-supporting within a reasonable amount of time after divorce.
Types of Alimony
Maryland has several types of alimony: temporary, short-term, and long-term or permanent. Temporary alimony lasts only during the divorce proceedings, prior to the final judgment of divorce. This is also called alimony “pendente lite,” which means the award is effective only while the case is pending.
The court may award short-term alimony for a limited time to help one spouse adjust after a divorce. It may award permanent or long-term alimony when one spouse shows that he or she won’t be able to make substantial progress in becoming self-supporting due to age, disability, or illness, or that the spouses living standards will be unconscionably disparate even after that spouse has made as much progress as possible towards becoming self-supporting.
Factors Courts Consider in Awarding Alimony
When determining whether to award alimony, a judge may consider a number of factors, including:
- the length of the marriage
- the couple’s standard of living during marriage
- each spouse's age and mental and physical condition
- the financial needs and financial resources of each spouse
- the requesting spouse’s ability to become self-supporting, and whether further education or training will be required to meet that goal
- each spouse’s contribution to the marriage, whether financial or otherwise, and
- whether the spouse from whom alimony is requested will be able to meet his or her own needs while paying alimony.
The court may also consider fault when granting alimony awards. A "fault divorce" means one spouse is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage due to actions such as adultery, abuse, or abandonment. Finally, the court may consider an alimony agreement between the spouses.
To calculate the amount of support, the court may look at both spouse's incomes, standards of living, and monthly expenses. It may also look at each spouse's investment and retirement opportunities as well as potential tax consequences.
Modification or Termination of Alimony
Alimony in Maryland ends if the alimony recipient remarries, either spouse dies, or the court finds a change in circumstances. You may also ask the court to modify the award if you can show that circumstances for you or your spouse have changed so substantially that the current order is no longer appropriate.
For federal tax purposes, alimony is tax-deductible to the paying spouse. The receiving spouse is required to report the amount as income.