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Alimony Overview and Basics

You may have heard of alimony, as it is relief that can be granted in a Maryland divorce proceeding, but you might not know what exactly is it, how is it determined, or what are the rules around it are. Here, the family law attorneys at Rodier Family Law provide a brief overview of alimony. 

What is Alimony?

Alimony is financial support paid, typically in regular monthly increments, from one spouse to another either pending an award of divorce (pendente lite) after their marriage has been ended through divorce (term/rehabilitative or indefinite).
Alimony pendente lite is alimony that might be requested and potentially awarded during the pending divorce proceedings but prior to an Judgment of Absolute Divorce being granted.  Alimony pendente lite is essentially based off of the consideration of the parties needs and the ability of either party to pay support to the other on a temporary basis.  Fault or other factors are not at issue. Being awarded this type of alimony does not guarantee that an individual will be awarded permanent alimony after the divorce.  Alimony pendente lite terminates at divorce.
At trial, a party might be awarded either term or rehabilitative alimony, or indefinite alimony.  Alternatively a party may be denied alimony. Term or rehabilitative alimony is paid for a specific period of time, and the purpose of said payments is to enable the dependent spouse to become self-supporting.  Term alimony is preferred.  In the event that the Court determines that due to the age, illness, infirmity or disability of a party he or she is not expected to become self-supporting, or in otherwise determines that even after the dependent spouse does all he or she can to become self-supporting the respective standards of living of the parties will be “unconscionably disparate” then the Court can consider awarding a party what is referred to as indefinite alimony.  This is a slight misnomer, however, because alimony terminates in accordance with Maryland law upon the death of a party or the remarriage of the recipient and is modifiable by either the paying or receiving party.

How is Alimony Determined?

The questions of who pays, and who receives, alimony, how much is paid, and for how long, is based on several factors, including, but not limited to: the current incomes of both spouses, the standard of living of the couple during the marriage, the earning capacity of each spouse, the physical and emotional state of each spouse and the length of the marriage. While every case is different, a spouse’s current earnings do not automatically dictate whether they deserve alimony payments; more important is their “earning capacity,” or ability to earn based on the education and training they have received. A vocational expert will often be retained to determine how much a spouse could be making, if they were employed to the fullest extent of their capabilities. If a spouse is working at a part-time job, for example, they may be required to find full-time employment, based on the capabilities and education they possess.

How Long Do Alimony Payments Last?

Temporary alimony pending trial (pendente lite alimony) terminates upon the award of a Judgment of Absolute Divorce to either spouse.  Term or rehabilitative alimony established at trial terminates at the end of the term stated (one year, three years, etc.).  Indefinite alimony would continue until modified or terminated in accordance with applicable law.  All alimony terminates, unless the parties expressly agree otherwise in a written separation agreement, upon the death of either party, or the remarriage of the recipient spouse.  It is advisable to speak to a qualified family attorney to determine if and how alimony may impact your divorce, based on your unique circumstances.

What if a Spouse Stops Making Alimony Payments?

Legal recourse is available should an ex-spouse fail to make alimony payments. Known as a contempt proceeding, or enforcement action, the ex-spouse meant to receive alimony can have the court enforce the alimony payments. In some cases, the spouse meant to pay alimony could be given jail time should they not meet the alimony demand. Speak with your family law attorney immediately if your ex-spouse fails to continue paying alimony.

How Protokowicz & Rodier Can Help

Divorce is complex, and can have a serious financial impact on both spouses. Having a knowledgeable family law attorney is crucial to ensuring your interests are protected. The dedicated attorneys at Rodier Family Law have years of experience handling divorce, alimony, child support and other family law cases, ensuring you and your case are treated with the utmost care and respect to your needs. For more or a consultation, contact us today.