How does Maryland law handle alimony awards in divorce?
There has been a reform movement in a handful of states that has resulted in legislative changes to alimony laws. Some of the objections to traditional alimony include concern over making someone pay into their retirement years or to a recipient who could rejoin the work force with some retraining.
Maryland is not one of those alimony reform states. Our alimony laws remain fairly traditional with broad discretion remaining with judges to fashion alimony awards.
As a preliminary matter, a divorcing couple can negotiate an alimony award with the terms they agree to. Maryland law says that the court must accept this award as part of the divorce.
Court-ordered alimony awards must be fair
If they cannot agree, the judge in the divorce will decide all issues of alimony. If the court decides to order alimony, Maryland statute requires that the judge consider “all the factors necessary for a fair and equitable award,” including several specific things:
- Whether the recipient can support themselves in part or entirely
- How long it would take for the recipient to get the education or training needed to find a suitable job
- Length of marriage
- Marital standard of living
- Contributions – financial and otherwise – of each to the family’s well-being
- Circumstances contributing to the parties’ estrangement
- Parties’ ages
- Parties’ mental and physical health
- Whether the payor could meet their own needs while paying alimony
- Agreements between the parties
- Parties’ financial needs and resources
- Whether an award requiring payment by an institutionalized spouse would make that spouse eligible for medical assistance sooner
Duration of award
The court may order alimony paid for a specific, defined period or indefinitely only if the recipient “cannot reasonably be expected to make substantial progress toward becoming self-supporting” because of “age, illness, infirmity, or disability” or if even after making reasonable progress toward self-support, their standards of living would be “unconscionably disparate.”
Unless certain provisions exist in an agreement between the parties, the recipient can later petition the court the court to extend alimony’s duration when circumstances have changed that would “lead to a harsh and inequitable result.” The court may modify the amount “as circumstances and justice require.”
Termination of payments
Alimony ends with any one of these:
- If either party dies
- When the parties agreed it would
- When the recipient remarries
- If the court finds without termination, there would be a “harsh and inequitable result”
This is a general introduction to Maryland alimony. Consult a lawyer with specific questions about your situation.
The attorneys at the Law Office of Kevin L. Beard, P.A., in Catonsville represent divorcing or divorced clients with alimony and other family law matters throughout greater Baltimore