The term “alimony” often brings to mind wealthy men paying their wives exorbitant amounts of money after a divorce. While this may have been an accurate characterization in the distant past, today spouses of both genders and all income levels frequently receive spousal support. It is advisable to work with a diligent family law attorney when determining spousal maintenance issues with your former partner.
Alimony payments are meant to help a less financially-secure spouse become self-sufficient after divorce and also to make sure there is no unconscionable disparity between the two former spouses. If you believe that you may need spousal maintenance payments, contact a Maryland alimony lawyer and learn more about the types of support that may be available to you.
Understanding Spousal Support
Alimony refers to a person’s obligation to make monthly or periodic payments to their former spouse. Also known as spousal support or spousal maintenance, a judge can only award alimony as part of a divorce case or separation.
Alimony may be determined ahead of a divorce by a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. In general, a divorce judge cannot change the terms of these contracts and may uphold an agreement for spousal support barring any extreme changes in circumstances.
If the divorcing couple does not have a marital contract, a judge can award alimony to either person if the circumstances permit. Maryland statutes provide judges with guidance on factors to be considered when deciding if an award of alimony is merited, including the length of the marriage, the ability of each person to support themselves, and each person’s age and physical health. The full list of considerations is outlined in Maryland Code, Family Law §11-106.
Types of Alimony in Maryland
There are at least three kinds of alimony in Maryland: alimony pendente lite, rehabilitative alimony, and indefinite alimony. Each type has its own purpose and requirements, and not all kinds are appropriate in every case. A seasoned Maryland alimony attorney could help a claimant determine which kinds of spousal support would fulfill their needs.
Alimony Pendente Lite
Temporary alimony during the course of a divorce case is called alimony pendente lite. Pendente lite is a Latin term meaning “awaiting the litigation.” This type of alimony is temporary and is only meant to ensure that a spouse maintains the same standard of living while the divorce is pending. For instance, an award of alimony pendente lite may require the breadwinning spouse to continue making payments on the couple’s regular bills.
Rehabilitative alimony is a very common type of spousal support that a family court orders. Rehabilitative alimony provides support for a spouse while they finish school, find a job, or otherwise become financially able to provide for themselves. Rehabilitative alimony has a concrete end date and typically lasts for less than ten years.
Indefinite alimony is less common because the payments continue without an end date. Most frequently, a judge orders indefinite alimony after a lengthy marriage where one spouse is not realistically able to support themselves financially because of their age or health.
A judge may also award indefinite alimony when one spouse’s resources and income far outweigh the others. If the difference in the parties’ standard of living after divorce is unconscionably disparate, the spouse with more resources may pay alimony to the other permanently.
Enforcement and Termination of Alimony
An award of alimony may be reduced or terminated if either spouse’s standard of living changes significantly. For example, if the spouse paying alimony loses their job and can no longer reasonably afford the payments, that person may be able to petition the court to reduce their maintenance obligations. Alimony will be terminated if the spouse receiving it gets remarried, or if either spouse dies.
One way to enforce alimony is to file an action for contempt in the family court with the help of an experienced lawyer in Maryland. If the payor spouse fails to make alimony payments, the receiving spouse can petition the court to order the spouse to comply or face sanctions for contempt.
Let a Maryland Alimony Attorney Assist You
Divorce can wreak havoc on a person’s finances, and alimony payments are often crucial in getting back on your feet. If you are going through a divorce or separation, talk to a Maryland alimony lawyer about whether you may be eligible for spousal support.