Can You Go to Jail If You Don’t Pay Alimony in Maryland?

maryland divorce alimony lawyer

Alimony, also referred to as spousal support, is a financial award designed to help a more financially dependent spouse during or after a divorce. Maryland law has several types of spousal support designed to help the lesser-earning spouse until he or she can improve his or her ability to support him or herself financially. The court decides if alimony is appropriate, how much should be paid, what form of spousal support and how long it should last.

But what happens if one spouse decides he or she no longer wants to pay the award? Can the payor go to jail for refusing to comply with the order?

Yes, you can go to jail for not paying alimony. However, most people will not go to jail, as there are other options available. Here, we discuss how spousal support orders are enforced, and what could happen when one spouse refuses to pay.

How does Maryland enforce spousal support orders?

Spousal support is a court-ordered payment. When one spouse has been ordered to pay alimony to the other, he or she must comply with the order, or could face serious consequences. If the party who is supposed to be receiving alimony is not receiving payments, the court can enforce the order if the paying spouse lives in Maryland, if he or she lives in a state in the United States which has a reciprocal agreement with Maryland, or if he or she owns property in Maryland such as real estate, bank accounts, a business or stocks and bonds. (Maryland People’s Law Library)

If a person refuses to pay court-ordered spousal support, despite having the ability to do so, he or she may be held in contempt of court. Contempt can result in jail time, though it is not common in these cases.

Maryland has a mandatory earnings withholding statute (MD Code Fam. Law § 10-121) to which spousal support orders are automatically subject. The law allows the court to withhold the court-ordered amount from the paying spouse’s salary and send it to the spouse who receives it.

If the divorce agreement requires Person A to transfer property to Person B, but Person A refuses to do so, Person B can file a contempt action, or petition the court to appoint a third-party to execute the transfer at the other party’s expense. Furthermore, “When the court has ordered child support, alimony, attorney’s fees, or a monetary award, the property of a noncomplying obligor may be seized or sequestered in accordance with the procedures of Rules 2-648 and 2-651.” (Rule 9-210: Attachment, Seizure, and Sequestration) Please note, however, that note that this seizure only occurs when the obligor (the person paying the alimony) is not a Maryland resident. The rule applies to nonresident obligors only.

Additional methods for enforcing court-ordered spousal support

The courts have other means available to collect unpaid spousal support payments, which might include suspending the payor’s professional licenses; or garnishing wages, bank accounts, tax refunds, lottery winnings, or other forms of income if there are outstanding spousal support payments due.

Non-payment of spousal support can have serious implications in several areas of a person’s life. An experienced Annapolis divorce attorney from the law firm of Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC can represent you in enforcing spousal support payments.

If you are having trouble receiving spousal support payments after a divorce, talk to the divorce attorneys at Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC. We can represent in your spousal support enforcement efforts. You can reserve a consultation at our office in Annapolis by calling 410.921.2422 or filling out our contact form.

How Do Re-marriage and Cohabitation Affect Alimony in Maryland?

How Do Re-marriage and Cohabitation Affect Alimony in Maryland?Sometimes people are eager to get through the divorce process quickly, because they have already found another romantic partner, and are ready to move forward with the relationship. However, if one person is awarded alimony, either during the divorce proceedings or for a set (or indefinite) time after the divorce is final, he or she will likely lose that award if he or she remarries.

Spousal support in Maryland

Alimony, or spousal support, is not guaranteed in Maryland divorces, and it is granted by the court in its discretion. While the court does not follow a strict checklist of criteria, Maryland law does contain about a dozen factors that the court may consider when deciding if, and for how long, alimony would be appropriate. Some of those factors include:

  • The length of the marriage;
  • The age, physical and mental state of both parties;
  • The ability of the party who is seeking alimony to support himself/herself financially;
  • The contributions of both parties–monetary and nonmonetary–to the well-being of the family; and
  • Any previous agreement between the parties.

(For a complete list, please see MD Fam L Code § 11-106 (2016))

Automatic termination of alimony

In Maryland, spousal support will automatically terminate under the following conditions, unless otherwise stated in the divorce agreement:

  • The death of either party;
  • Marriage of the spouse receiving alimony; and
  • If the court finds that termination of alimony is necessary to avoid a harsh and inequitable result.

(MD Fam L. Code §11-108 (2016))

Modification of alimony due to cohabitation

If the party receiving alimony begins cohabitating with a new partner, this does not automatically terminate spousal support. The obligor (party paying alimony) would be required to file a request with the court to examine the receiving spouse’s financial circumstances to determine if it would be appropriate to modify the existing alimony payments. It is not enough to show that the receiving spouse is living with another partner, but the paying spouse must convince the judge that terminating the alimony payments is necessary to avoid a “harsh and inequitable result.”

Spousal support in Maryland is a complicated topic, and each case will have different circumstances. Working with an experienced Annapolis divorce lawyer from the law firm of Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC will give you access to sound legal counsel and a strong advocate for your position when you are going through a divorce.

At Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC, we are here to protect our clients’ rights as they move through the divorce process and build a new future. We invite you to contact us or call us at 410.921.2422 to discuss your case now with an experienced Annapolis divorce lawyer.

Factors Involved in Deciding and Calculating Alimony in Maryland Divorce

Factors Involved in Deciding and Calculating Alimony in Maryland DivorceAlimony, or spousal support, is a commonly misunderstood concept in Maryland divorce. Alimony is never guaranteed, and when it is granted, there are many factors that go into deciding when it is appropriate, how much should be paid, for how long and which spouse will pay.

In Maryland, spouses who are divorcing can come to an agreement about how much alimony one will pay the other after the divorce. In cases where the parties are unable to come to an agreement, the court will make the decisions about alimony, and there are several factors that go into making this challenging decision.

What is alimony for?

The purpose of alimony is to attempt to correct an economic imbalance when a couple divorces. It can be difficult for a spouse who is used to enjoying a certain lifestyle or standard of living, to be thrust into a situation where they will be forced to struggle to survive. In the days where one spouse was the “breadwinner” and the other focused on housekeeping and childrearing, the spouse that was focused on taking care of the home and family might be left in a difficult situation if they were not able to rely on alimony to cover their expenses while they look for a job or pursue the training they would need to get a job. Now, most married couples both have jobs and both contribute financially and otherwise to the marriage.

Factors that the court might consider when deciding alimony include:

  • The ability of the party seeking alimony to support themselves
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The age, physical, psychological and general health of the parties
  • The financial needs and resources of each party
  • Whether awarding alimony might create a hardship for the paying spouse
  • Other factors

While alimony is not a punitive measure, the court will also look at what caused the breakup of the marriage when considering whether and how much alimony should be awarded.

(MD. Code Family Law §11–106)

As stated hereinabove, the duration of the marriage is also a vital factor in deciding whether alimony is appropriate and how much to grant. For example, a marriage that lasted for about three years, where both parties worked and earned similar income and had no minor children, the court might not consider spousal support to be appropriate, but in the case where a couple was married for 30 years, one spouse worked while the other raised children and the spouse who raised the children never had a substantial career before the marriage, the court may grant spousal support to make sure that the non-earning spouse is able to take care of themselves financially.

When you are dealing with divorce, wondering how you will get by on your single income, and concerned about who will get the home you purchased together, a skilled Maryland divorce attorney form the law firm of Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC is here to guide you through the complex path of divorce and make sure that whether you are paying or receiving spousal support, you will be treated fairly.

Deciding alimony and calculating how much and what type is appropriate is a complicated area of family law in Maryland. At Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC we are a team of experienced Maryland divorce attorneys who are here to protect your interests in divorce whether you will be paying or receiving spousal support after divorce. Please give us a call at 410.921.2422 or fill out our contact form and schedule a case review today.

A Brief Guide to Alimony in Maryland

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.

Representing Individuals in Maryland Alimony Disputes

Alimony is intended to help a lesser moneyed spouse enjoy a similar quality of life following a Maryland divorce. There are two primary kinds of alimony in the state of Maryland. One is referred to as permanent and/or indefinite alimony. The other is called rehabilitative alimony.

Permanent alimony will be paid to the receiving spouse for an indefinite or permanent amount of time. It is intended to assist the spouse in maintaining a similar level and quality of life — in financial terms — as the spouse experienced during the course of the marriage.

Rehabilitative alimony is a temporary spousal support allowance. Rehabilitative alimony is intended to help a Maryland spouse finance education or professional training that will assist in increasing his or her ability to earn a living.

Whether or not an alimony award will be granted by a Maryland court is difficult to predict with absolute accuracy. However, courts will generally look at a variety of important factors in making such a determination. First, the court will look to see if the alimony seeker is self-supporting either completely or partially. Next, the court will look at how much time is needed for the alimony seeker to get the education and/or training required to become fully self-supporting. Courts will also review the standard of living enjoyed by both spouses during the marriage.

In addition to the above, the ages of both parties, marriage duration, mental and physical condition of the spouses and the financial needs and incomes of both parties will be evaluated among other factors. Due to the sheer volume of information to be considered, and the subjective nature of court decisions relating to alimony, Maryland residents who are either advocating for or against alimony payments in their divorce may be able to benefit from hiring an experienced divorce attorney to represent them in their proceedings.

Alimony in Maryland

Since I broached the scary topic of ALIMONY last week, I thought we’d might as well continue down the haunted trail and address all our fears once and for all. Consider it Fear Therapy!

Perhaps one of the greatest misconceptions that separating spouses have when it comes to alimony is that it is awarded as a matter of right in most cases, especially where one spouse earns significantly more than the other. I have lost count of the number of clients that have come to an initial consultation expressing certainty about either their entitlement to receive alimony as the financially subordinate spouse or their requirement to pay alimony as the financially dominant spouse. This misconception which leaves some clients buoyant and others completely dispirited is the subject of this week’s discussion.

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Question: If one spouse earns more money than the other spouse, is the lower-earning spouse entitled to alimony?

Answer: Not necessarily. While the court will consider disparity of income as a factor in deciding alimony; it is not the only factor to be considered.

The court will also consider the ability of the spouse to be self-supporting as well as the time needed for the spouse to find suitable employment. For example, a spouse that has been unemployed or underemployed for some time by agreement of the parties is not likely to suddenly be stripped of all financial support of a former spouse if to do so would pose an unfair hardship on the party that has been out of the workforce.

In addition, the court will consider the standard of living that the parties maintained during the marriage. The court does not intend that upon divorce, one party will be living in the “lap of luxury” while the other is eking out a “hand to mouth” existence when the parties enjoyed an upper middle class lifestyle during the marriage. On the other hand, the court does not expect that parties will have equal incomes/lifestyles post-divorce.

Also, the duration of the marriage is an important factor. A couple that has been married for just a few years with both parties working prior to (and especially during) the marriage should not have high hopes or great fears, depending on your perspective, that an alimony award is likely.

Moreover, the contributions (both monetary and non-monetary) the low-earning spouse made to the family will be considered. For example, if a spouse stayed at home to care for the parties’ children and therefore earned less income, the court will factor in that childcare as a contribution weighing in favor of alimony for that spouse.

Fault for the breakdown of the marriage is also considered by the court in deciding alimony. Certainly a spouse that blows up a marriage through infidelity, abusive conduct and other unreasonable and unacceptable behavior should not expect that he/she can walk away from the carnage without any consequence. While the consequence may not necessarily show up in an alimony award it may show up as a monetary award (a topic of a future posting).

The age and health of the parties, the ability of the financially dominant spouse to pay alimony, any agreements, other financial resources and obligations of the parties, retirement benefits available to the parties, are all factors Maryland courts will consider when deciding what, if any, alimony should be awarded and for what length of time.

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Unlike child support, there is no magic formula that Maryland courts must adhere to when deciding alimony. So long as the court considers all of the factors that are outlined above, the court is well within its discretion to assign whatever weight he/she deems appropriate to the individual factors.

Hopefully, understanding that alimony is not automatic and doesn’t hinge on a single fact tempers some of the enthusiasm of some and sheer dread of others so frequently associated with the issue.

Final Thought: A review of Maryland case law on the subject of alimony makes it clear that alimony when awarded is not intended as a lifetime pension but rather as a bridge to financial independence.

Defending Against and Pursuing Rehabilitative Alimony in Maryland

Alimony is common in divorces where there is a significant difference from the financial situation of one spouse compared to another. Particularly, if one spouse is not employed and the other spouse is, then alimony may be required in a Maryland divorce. Alimony is commonly intended to provide a less affluent spouse with temporary financial assistance so that he or she can get back on steady financial feet again following a separation.

In some cases, alimony will be assigned to help an ex-spouse pay for education and/or professional training necessary to become financially independent. This type of spousal support is referred to as rehabilitative alimony and it can be very helpful to a spouse who is put in a difficult financial situation as a result of a separation. The amount and size of rehabilitative alimony payments are determined as a percentage of the “moneyed” — or more affluent — spouse’s income.

Regardless what side of the debate a Maryland spouse is on — if you are the payee or the recipient – the Law Offices of Paula J. Peters, P.A., is ready to use our expertise and experience to help you navigate your legal proceedings relating to spousal support. Most individuals want an immediate answer to the question: How much and for how long? We are highly familiar with the benchmarks, percentages and other factors that Maryland family law courts use when making decisions relating to alimony payments, and we can provide you with an accurate idea of what to expect in your case.

Settling an alimony dispute out of court is usually preferable to taking the matter to trial. Not only is settling a more cost effect solution, but if an out-of-court agreement can be made, it tends to be less taxing on individuals on an emotional and psychological level. At the Law Offices of Paula J. Peters, P.A., the initial consultation with our firm is completely free of charge. Contact us, and we will be happy to discuss your rights with you.

Alimony

In the spirit of the Halloween season, I thought I’d discuss a topic that strikes fear in the hearts and minds of many divorcing parties — ALIMONY!!!

In many folks’ minds, “alimony is the boogey man” of Family Law. If you are the potential payor of alimony you want to know how you can keep the dreaded alimony away. Are there any magic potions that can be conjured up to ward off alimony? Is there an elixir one can take to make you immune to alimony?

On the other hand, if you are the recipient of alimony, the fears run more along the lines of avoiding any snares or traps that might cause you to lose alimony.

This week’s question arises out of a context in which alimony is being paid to a former spouse by contractual agreement.
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Question: Will the obligation to pay alimony terminate in the event the ex-spouse begins “cohabitating” with another person?

Answer: It depends. Unless a party has expressly identified “cohabitation” as a condition that triggers termination of the obligation to pay alimony in the parties’ separation agreement, then the alimony obligation continues. Even if a party includes a cohabitation clause in the separation agreement, the court will have to find that the arrangement between the ex-spouse and the person with whom the ex-spouse lives constitutes “cohabitation” as a matter of fact.

Alimony Claims in Maryland from Both Sides of the Coin

Most divorcing individuals who believe that they will soon be paying or receiving alimony will want to have an idea of the expected size of the payments and how long they will last. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Paula J. Peters are highly experienced at handling questions relating to alimony in Maryland. We are also dedicated to helping our clients get the fairest treatment under the law — so they can preserve their financial security for years to come.

Attorney Paula Peters has achieved excellent results for numerous alimony clients — including one client who received an award of $30,000 alimony per month indefinitely. Having worked on both sides of alimony cases, our firm is uniquely suited to defend individuals against alimony claims and to pursue alimony claims on behalf of those who have a legal right to them.

In Maryland, there are two primary classifications of alimony: rehabilitative alimony and permanent alimony. Permanent alimony continues throughout the ex-spouse’s life, and it is intended to provide sufficient financial assistance so that the recipient can maintain the same quality of affluence experienced during marriage. Rehabilitative alimony, on the other hand, is only temporary and its purpose is to assist the receiving spouse to meet living expenses while he or she gets back on his or her feet again.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Paula J. Peters are skilled at forecasting what level of alimony a party might be liable to pay and/or receive after a divorce. This knowledge is a valuable part of the way we help our clients. Ultimately, we are committed to the needs of our client and we are passionate about representing their best interests to the fullest extent of the law.

Source: “Annapolis Alimony Lawyer” Sep. 04, 2014

Government Missing Out on Millions from Alimony Tax Errors

Have you lied about alimony on your taxes? If so, you are not alone; scores of Maryland residents and others throughout the nation may be bilking the government out of millions of dollars by failing to report their alimony allowances. Official reports say that the federal government is losing out on a significant amount of money because of this alimony reporting compliance gap. Further, the Internal Revenue Service does not have an effective system for identifying violators.

A recent agency audit showed that nearly half of the 2010 returns that included alimony deductions did not include the correct number. In many cases, an ex-spouse reported paying alimony — which is tax-deductible — even though the person who was supposed to have received the money never reported it. In other cases, alimony payers claimed that they had given thousands of dollars more than they actually had.

As a result, investigators determined that government agencies lost out on $351 million in taxes in 2010 alone because of the incorrect alimony numbers. That estimate could be on the low end, as investigators only had the funds and resources to audit a few alimony-related returns. The IRS has sent some reminder forms to those who were found with tax discrepancies, but it is unclear whether the government has recouped any of that outstanding money. The IRS does not always have the authority to contest an alimony deduction claim.

No matter whether you receive or pay spousal support, it is important to remain on the right side of the IRS when filing your alimony-related tax documents. Taxpayers can face serious penalties for failing to pay their taxes. Although the IRS is still refining its policies, it pays to be honest and transparent when filing taxes.

Source: The Washington Times, “Divorcees cheat IRS out of millions through alimony” Stephen Dinan, May. 15, 2014