By Mary Ellen Flynn, Attorney at Law
In almost all divorce cases I represent, one of the main questions my clients ask me is, “Do I qualify for alimony?” To appropriately answer that question, you first must understand the standards and factors that a judge will consider when making an alimony determination. Additionally, you must determine the types of alimony available to you should you request it from the court.
In Maryland, a court may award one of three types of alimony:
- Pendente lite alimony is temporary spousal support. It is granted (or agreed upon between the parties) for the period between the time one party requests and files for alimony in court. Pendente lite is done as part of their divorce until a final alimony award is made or the parties reach an agreement.
- Rehabilitative alimony is the most common type of alimony awarded. It is granted to allow a spouse to become self-supporting. For example, to enable a spouse to go back to school and gain education or training, which would allow for that spouse to then support themselves.
- Indefinite alimony is an award with no specific endpoint awarded. This type of alimony is typically due to the spouse’s age, illness, or disability that may not allow the spouse to make progress towards becoming self-supporting. Alternatively, the standards of living between the parties would be so “unconscionably disparate” that, even if the spouse could become self-supporting, an indefinite award is warranted.
When deciding if alimony is warranted, Maryland Family Law Code # 11-106 requires a court to make a fair and equitable decision by considering several factors. Each one carries its weight, including:
- The length of your marriage
- The circumstances leading up to the dissolution of your marriage
- The age, physical and mental condition of each party
- The standard of living the couple established during the marriage
- The contributions, both monetary and non-monetary, each party made to the marriage
- The financial needs and resources of each party
- The ability of each party to be self-supporting
- The time necessary for the party seeking alimony to gain education or training needed to become self-supporting
- The ability of the party paying alimony to meet their needs while also meeting the needs of the other party; and
- Any agreements between the parties.
In child support determinations, there is a rebuttable presumption that the amount of child support will be calculated using the Maryland Child Support Guidelines. However, when determining alimony, there are no statutory guidelines required or a set formula for a judge to utilize.
As a reference, attorneys often do refer to the Kaufmann and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (commonly referred to as the “AAML”) “guidelines.” These can be referenced to give you a range of what to expect, but these “guidelines” are only reference points. It’s essential to keep in mind that in Maryland cases, they are not required to be considered or followed by the court. In my experience, these “guidelines” are excellent tools that should be utilized to educate yourself on the possibilities of your case.
Whether you are a potential payor or a potential recipient of alimony, consultation with an attorney is worthwhile. As conveyed in this article, “How much” is a complicated question with no easy answer because you can’t just plug figures into a worksheet for a specific numeric result. Due to the multiple factors a court must consider, and with the unique circumstances each case presents, all will have a profound effect on alimony determination. That’s why you should consult with an attorney as soon in the separation-divorce process as possible. If alimony is a potential issue in your divorce, whether you will be paying or receiving it, consultation is critical. Your attorney can provide you with the guideline calculations mentioned above, and give you advice regarding the facts specific to your case. All of which will have an impact on an alimony determination in your divorce.
About Andalman & Flynn, P.C.: Andalman & Flynn, P.C. serves clients throughout Maryland and the District of Columbia, offering compassionate, quality service and results-driven representation across a broad range of legal areas. With a concentration on disability benefits law and family law, the firm focuses on cases that impact the rights of everyone, and they are there for clients when responsive legal help is most critical. For more information about Andalman & Flynn, please visit http://www.andalmanflynn.com, or call 301.563.6685.