Alimony, or spousal support, is a periodic payment by one former spouse to the other. The purpose of alimony is to provide an opportunity for the recipient spouse to become self-supporting. Alimony, unlike child support, is not governed by statutorily mandated guidelines, but may be awarded at the discretion of the court after consideration of various factors. Accordingly, an award of spousal support and the amount are not as easily ascertainable as child support.
There are three types of spousal support in Maryland:
Pendente Lite (or temporary) Spousal Support
Pendente Lite Spousal Support is an award of support made during the pendency of a divorce case. The goal of pendente lite spousal support is to maintain the status quo existing prior to the filing of the divorce action. In making a pendente lite spousal support award the court will consider only the financial need of the spouse requesting support and the ability of the other spouse to pay support.
Rehabilitative Support is an award of support providing a spouse with resources for a limited period of time sufficient to allow them to become self-supporting. In making such and award, the court will consider the following factors:
- Ability to become self-supporting
- Time for education or retraining to find employment
- Standard of living during the marriage
- Duration of the marriage
- Contributions, monetary and non-monetary, to well-being of the family
- Cause of breakdown of marriage
- Age of each party
- Physical and mental condition of each party
- Ability of a payor spouse to meet their own needs while paying alimony
- Any agreement between the parties
- Financial needs and resources of each party:
- Any monetary award or use and possession order
- Financial obligations of the parties
- Right to receive retirement benefits
Permanent alimony is disfavored under Maryland Law and may only be awarded where the court finds that:
- Due to age, illness, infirmity, or disability, the party seeking spousal support cannot reasonably be expected to make substantial progress toward becoming self-supporting.
- Even after the party seeking alimony will have made as much progress toward becoming self-supporting as can reasonably be expected, the respective standards of living of the two parties will be unconscionably disparate.
Division of Marital Property
Marital property is defined as property acquired by either party during the marriage. Non-marital property is that property that was acquired prior to the marriage, by inheritance or gift from a third party, or property that is excluded by a valid agreement, such as a prenuptial agreement. Determining what property is marital property can be difficult to determine, especially when non-marital and marital property have been comingled or a non-marital asset has increased in value due to efforts of one of the spouses during the marriage. Determining the value of marital and non-marital assets is also very complex. All of these issues can be solved more easily with the help of an attorney.
In an action for an absolute divorce, the court has authority to divide marital property between spouses. The court engages in a three step process to equitably divide the marital estate between the parties:
- Determining what property is marital property
- Determining the value of each item of marital property
- Dividing the value of the marital estate between the parties through one or more methods which may include making a monetary award, transferring an interest in retirement assets, transferring an interest in real property, or ordering the sale of real or personal property
Factors the Court Considers in How it Divides Marital Property
The division of marital property received by each party will be determined by the court if the parties are unable to resolve these issues through an agreement. Maryland law requires the court to consider the following factors in deciding how and in what proportions to divide the marital estate:
- The contribution, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family
- The value of all property interests of each party
- The economic circumstances of each party at the time the award is to be made
- The circumstances that contributed to the estrangement of the parties
- The duration of the marriage
- The age of each party
- The physical and mental condition of each party
- How and when specific marital property was acquired
- Any award of alimony or award of use and possession of personal or real property made by the court
- Any other factor the court considers necessary or appropriate to arrive at equitable distribution