Alimony And Spousal Support
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What Is Alimony?
Alimony, also known as “spousal support,” is a court-ordered payment from one spouse to another. These payments can be:
- Just during divorce proceedings (“pendente lite”)
- Limited to a few years after the divorce is finalized (“rehabilitative”), to help the recipient get back on their feet
- Permanent maintenance payments (“indefinite”)
The idea behind alimony and spousal support payments is that individuals who contributed to the marriage in ways other than monetary still deserve to live a lifestyle they are accustomed to.
For example, the “breadwinner” may have been able to take promotions, extended work trips, and educational opportunities to further their own career because their home and family life were cared for by the other spouse.
Therefore, that spouse contributed to the total household income, even if they didn’t have a job at the time. Maryland judges may rule that alimony is appropriate in that circumstance.
Maryland only recently codified alimony into its state laws, as part of its Divorce Code of 1980.
How Can Someone Gain Alimony?
Courts only award alimony to one party in a divorce case before the divorce decree is finalized. Therefore, someone seeking alimony must ask for it as part of the divorce proceedings; it cannot be granted after the divorce is done.
While both parties can jointly propose what they consider to be fair alimony arrangements, it is ultimately the Court’s sole decision as to whether, what kind, and how much spousal support is granted as part of the divorce decree.
Judges consider many characteristics in an alimony claim, such as:
- How long the marriage lasted
- What the household’s standard of living was before divorce proceedings
- Who contributed what to the divorce, both financially and materially
- Who can join (or rejoin) the workforce, and how much they might make
- What led to the divorce, if an at-fault divorce is filed
This is by no means an exhaustive list of alimony considerations. Maryland judges have the freedom to make their decision based on any circumstances or details about the alimony claim they consider relevant to a specific case.
In addition to a general lump payment, the Court may also award other types of spousal support. For example, a judge may order that one party’s mortgage be paid for a certain amount of time, or that school fees associated with education toward a future career be reimbursed.
The Court may also order accumulated legal fees to be reimbursed at the conclusion of the divorce.
How Can I Fight An Unfair Alimony Claim?
Sometimes, one party in a divorce seeks alimony to “punish” their former spouse. They may ask for an excessive amount of spousal support.
We often see the would-be provider unable to make both spousal support payments and their own household bills.
There are several defenses against excessive alimony and spousal support, including:
- Showing that the requested alimony is excessive and beyond what’s “necessary” to pay
- Proving that spousal support payments would cripple the payer financially
- The other party is acting needlessly vindictive in their alimony claims
Of course, the approach of countering an alimony claim largely depends on each individual divorce proceeding – and the court and judge making the final decree.