If you are facing a divorce, you should consider how alimony may affect you. Alimony, sometimes called spousal support, is designed to provide the financially dependent spouse with money to help offset living expenses and make up for the new discrepancy in household income. Alimony is not child support, and the amount of alimony one spouse will owe another is dependent not only on your circumstances, but also on a judge’s discretion.
Maryland’s three alimony awards
Alimony can be awarded to either spouse based on a host of factors. It can be awarded during or after a divorce, and the length of time alimony is to be paid is dependent on the type of alimony awarded. There are three types of spousal support in Maryland:
- Alimony pendente lite. Literally “pending litigation,” this type of alimony can be awarded from the initial filing of the divorce until the final settlement. Receiving alimony pendente lite does not guarantee that you will receive alimony as part of the final divorce agreement.
- Rehabilitative alimony. This type of support comes with an expiration date. Rehabilitative alimony allows one spouse time and income to regain relevant workplace experience. It can also help to re-establish individual financial stability. Rehabilitative alimony is part of a final divorce, and payments begin after the divorce is settled.
- Indefinite alimony. With no expiration, the burden on the claimant to establish as many factors as possible that weigh in favor of indefinite alimony is quite high. Extenuating circumstances absolutely apply here; if one spouse is seriously disabled or chronically ill, indefinite alimony might be awarded. Additionally, if the divorce will create a grossly disparate income gap, a judge can choose to award indefinite alimony.
Alimony is usually terminated on death or remarriage of the payee.
Understanding the complexities of an alimony award
Whether or not both spouses are self-supporting is an important factor in the determination of spousal support, but the process extends far beyond that point. The reasons why a person might seek alimony – time to educate oneself in a new trade, whether or not the couple had children or brought other children into the marriage, to be financially secure after leaving an abusive spouse – all factor into a judge’s decision.
The judge will also consider the length of the marriage and the age of each spouse, as well as each spouse’s physical and mental conditions. The overall quality of life a couple shared is examined, which requires a tremendous amount of detailed paperwork as well as complete honesty on behalf of both spouses. A spouse who tries to prove he or she will be living paycheck to paycheck when he or she is able to be self-supporting, or a spouse who claims that his or her ex can easily work but chooses not to (despite strong evidence to the contrary), will not fare well in front of a judge: firstly, because the law demands absolute honesty, and secondly because a divorce lawyer cannot perform at the highest level if a client does not speak the total truth in their confidential meetings.
We once described alimony as a bridge to financial independence; it is one of the reasons why obtaining indefinite alimony is such a complex process. It is also why if you are seeking alimony during a divorce, you want a skilled and experienced litigator on your side.
The law office of Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC is committed to helping clients protect their assets and prepare for a lifetime of financial security. Our attorneys have a combined 30 years of experience and are uniquely qualified to handle complex support cases in Maryland. Please contact us to reserve a consultation time in our Annapolis office.