Alimony is one of the most highly contested issues in a divorce.
In this guide, we’ll cover what you need to know about alimony in Maryland. Let’s dive in.
- Who is Entitled to Alimony in Maryland?
- Types of Support in Maryland
- What Factors Are Used to Determine Alimony?
- Modifying or Terminating Spousal Support in Maryland
- Enforcing Maryland Alimony Awards
- Spousal Support and Taxes
- Maryland Alimony FAQs
Who is Entitled to Alimony in Maryland?
Alimony is not automatically awarded in Maryland divorce cases. A spouse has to specifically ask the court for alimony and must be able to prove it is needed either during or after a divorce.
The ability to get alimony also requires proof that the paying spouse has the means to pay it.
Types of Support in Maryland
Alimony can be awarded while a divorce is in progress to assist a spouse in need. This temporary alimony is also called pendente lite alimony, and it is awarded to help maintain a status quo until a divorce is finalized.
Once the parties file for a mutual-consent no-fault divorce, they must wait at least 90 days and often longer before a final Divorce Decree is granted.
The spouse requesting temporary alimony must prove:
- There was a marriage
- There are reasonable grounds for the divorce
- You have a financial need
- The other spouse can pay
When the divorce is final, temporary alimony ends. This alimony award can be replaced with other types of maintenance, or the court can decide not to award alimony at all.
After a divorce is final, courts can award rehabilitative alimony, sometimes referred to as statutory alimony. This is the most common form of alimony in Maryland.
Rehabilitative alimony is paid for a specific period, and the primary purpose is to give the receiving spouse time to become self-supporting. The court tends to keep these awards as short as possible because they want each party to become self-supporting as soon as practical. Rehabilitative alimony is ordered until the spouse receiving alimony can be expected to become self-supporting through education, training, or work experience.
This type of alimony can be awarded from the date the alimony request was filed and is called backdating. Alimony can start on the day of the original complaint requesting alimony even if it was filed several months prior.
Another type of alimony awarded in Maryland is indefinite alimony. That does not mean permanent alimony, it just means the court does not set an end date.
A spouse might get indefinite alimony when they cannot be expected to become self-supporting due to an inability to earn enough, a disability, advanced age, or other barriers to earning a living.
Indefinite alimony can also be awarded if there is a significant difference between the incomes of the parties, which will persist after the divorce. The law refers to this as a “disparity” between the parties. There is no set guideline for finding a disparity in a divorce case.
When considering indefinite alimony, the court will use the same factors as rehabilitative alimony, such as age, illness, sickness, or disability, prohibiting a person from making substantial progress towards becoming self-supporting after a divorce is final.
Indefinite alimony is ordered much less frequently than rehabilitative alimony and is generally awarded in cases with a long-term marriage over 20 years.
In some cases, rehabilitative and indefinite alimony can be awarded together. If awarded together, rehabilitative alimony will end at a specified time, and indefinite alimony would continue after that.
Read More: How to File for Divorce in Maryland
What Factors Are Used to Determine Alimony?
A spouse requesting rehabilitative or indefinite alimony must prove it is warranted due to:
- The ability of the parties seeking alimony to be wholly or partly self-supporting
- The time necessary for the party seeking alimony to gain sufficient education or training to enable that party to find suitable employment
- The standard of living that the parties established during their marriage
- The duration of the marriage
- The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family
- The circumstances that contributed to the estrangement of the parties
- The age of each party
- The physical and mental condition of each party
- 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 agreement between the parties
- The financial needs and financial resources of each party, including:
- All income and assets, including all property that does not produce income;
- Any monetary award concerning property and award of possession and use of the family property;
- The nature and amount of the financial obligations of each party;
- The right of each party to receive retirement benefits
- Whether the award would cause a paying spouse or a spouse who is a resident of a care facility with more than two patients to become eligible for medical assistance earlier than would otherwise occur.
Each of these factors has special rules and exceptions that may apply in your case.
If the parties have resolved alimony by a written agreement, the court will be bound by that agreement as it relates to alimony. If the agreement states that alimony is “not modifiable by any court,” the court may not modify the alimony. However, if alimony is awarded by the court, it is always modifiable.
Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Child Support
Modifying or Terminating Spousal Support in Maryland
To modify alimony, a Maryland judge must find a substantial change of circumstances since the original divorce and support order. The person seeking the modification must request the court before the original alimony award expires.
Modification can result in an extension of the time that alimony is provided, or the dollar amount of the payment can be changed.
Substantial changes can include job loss, health issues, retirement, or other major life changes.
If the issues brought as part of a modification could have been dealt with at the original divorce proceeding, the court may not consider them during the modification.
Alimony terminates upon:
- The death of either party
- The marriage of the spouse receiving alimony
- The court finds termination is necessary to avoid a harsh and unfair result. The spouse trying to terminate alimony has the burden of proving the harsh and unfair result.
- On a date specified by the court or by the spouse’s written agreement.
Enforcing Maryland Alimony Awards
The debt is known as alimony arrears. Arrears can be collected through mediation, small claims court, wage garnishment, or other means such as bank accounts or personal property.
Failure to comply with a court-issued alimony order may also result in a contempt of court charge against the spouse who did not pay as ordered. That can result in fines, payment of attorney’s fees, and in rare cases, the non-paying spouse may be sent to jail but usually only as a last resort.
Spousal Support and Taxes
Due to recent changes in Federal laws, the payer cannot deduct alimony or separate maintenance payments under a divorce or separation instrument executed after 2018. These payments are also not included as taxable income for recipients.
The same is true of alimony paid under a divorce or separation instrument executed before 2019 and modified after 2018 if the modification expressly states that the alimony isn’t deductible to the payor spouse or included in the income of the recipient spouse.
Taxpayers paying alimony under a divorce agreement executed before 2019 can deduct those payments from taxes when the following criteria are met:
- The recipient must be a spouse or former spouse
- There must be a written divorce or separation instrument
- Alimony must be made with cash payments (such as checks and money orders)
- Maintenance does not continue after the recipient dies
- The parties must live apart, residing in different households
- The parties must file separate tax returns (they cannot file a joint return and claim the alimony deduction)
- The court-ordered payment of alimony cannot state that payments are not deductible
Maryland Alimony FAQs
Can I collect alimony if we only lived together and were never married?
When parties are not married but are living together in a marriage-like relationship it is called a common law marriage. Maryland does not have common law marriage, nor does it recognize a non-married couple’s right to alimony upon a break-up of the relationship.
You must have been married to receive alimony in Maryland.
However, you may be able to claim contributions or expenses under a contract law theory. If you are not married and want monetary credit for contributions or expenses you made during the relationship, consult with an attorney to see if you have a valid claim.
What happens if I don’t make a claim for alimony during a divorce but decide I want it later?
Alimony can be awarded only before the final ending of the marriage. Failure to make a claim for alimony as part of divorce means you cannot come back later after the marriage has ended and started an alimony claim. According to the Maryland Court of Appeals “the right to claim alimony is extinguished at the time of the severance of the marital relationship.”
How do child custody and child support factor into alimony?
Custody of any children and child support required between parties are factored into the amount and consideration of spousal support.
If the custodian of the children can’t support themselves due to the children being of an age or condition that hinders the parent’s ability to support the child, such as if the spouse must remain home to care for the child, it severely influences the case for alimony.
Is marital fault considered in Maryland alimony?
Maryland considers marital fault when determining alimony payments. This means that “at-fault” divorces, which may be caused by infidelity or abuse, can result in the at-fault party paying more “punitive” alimony.
Can a prenuptial agreement waive alimony?
Yes. Courts recognize a prenuptial agreement as a legal and binding document.