Maryland Alimony FAQs

Answers to frequently asked questions about alimony (spousal support) in Maryland.

What is alimony?

Alimony is money one spouse pays to support a spouse or former spouse after the marriage is ended or the couple has separated.

What is the difference between alimony and child support?

Alimony is paid to support a spouse or former spouse. Child support is paid to support minor children. If the custodial parent is receiving alimony, both amounts might be paid to the same person, but they serve different purposes.

Is there a formula for determining alimony?

There are factors the court must consider, but there is no formula or calculator that turns these factors into a dollar amount. Whether to award alimony, as well as the amount and duration of the award, are for the court to decide based on the facts of each case.

What factors does a court consider in making an alimony award?

Maryland law says that the judge must consider "all the factors necessary for a fair and equitable award." The statute's list of things the judge must consider includes:

  • the ability of the spouse who wants alimony to be self-supporting
  • how much time it will take the spouse who wants alimony to get the training or education necessary to find suitable employment
  • the couple's standard of living while married
  • the length of the marriage
  • the contributions of each spouse to the family, whether those contributions were monetary or took another form
  • the circumstances that led to the end of the marriage
  • each spouse's age
  • each spouse's physical and mental condition
  • the ability of the spouse from whom alimony is sought to meet his or her own needs while paying alimony
  • any agreement the spouses have made regarding alimony
  • the financial needs and resources of each spouse, including their income, assets, retirement benefits, debts, and property awarded in the divorce, and
  • whether awarding alimony would cause the spouse from whom it is sought to become eligible for medical assistance earlier (this factor applies only if the spouse is a resident of certain types of care facilities).

When does alimony start?

The court can award alimony retroactively, starting from the date the complaint or petition seeking alimony was filed.

How long does alimony last?

There is no statutory limit. The court can order alimony for a fixed length of time, or for an indefinite period. Even when the court orders alimony for a fixed length of time, the order can be modified to extend alimony for additional time, or for an indefinite period.

Why would the court order indefinite alimony?

The court may award alimony for an indefinite period if either of the following is true:

  • due to age, illness, infirmity, or disability, the party seeking alimony cannot reasonably be expected to make substantial progress toward becoming self-supporting, or
  • even after the party seeking alimony has 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.

What does "unconscionably disparate" mean?

Maryland courts have consistently declined to adopt a hard and fast rule regarding how much of a disparity in income there must be to justify an award of indefinite alimony. Each case depends on its own circumstances.

Can an alimony award be modified?

Yes. The court can modify an alimony award as circumstances and justice require.

Are there circumstances in which a court cannot modify alimony?

Yes. Under Maryland law, a court cannot modify an alimony award if the spouses have made an agreement explicitly stating that the alimony award would not be subject to court modification.

Is alimony taxed as income?

Yes, alimony is generally taxable income to the spouse receiving it and deductible by the spouse paying it. (In contrast, child support payments are generally not taxable to the recipient nor deductible by the paying parent.)

More Information & Resources

You can find a wealth of information about divorce, alimony and related issues in our section on Maryland Divorce & Family Laws.

If you need legal advice, talk to a divorce lawyer in Maryland.

Content written by Meiselman & Helfant, LLC

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