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Barbara R. Trader, P.A.


In Maryland, there are different types of alimony that can be awarded by the Court. One type of alimony is temporary alimony or alimony pendente lite (during the litigation). This alimony is awarded to an economically dependant spouse ("e.d.s.") after a short Court hearing that establishes the needs of the e.d.s. and the ability of the economically independent spouse ("e.i.s.") to pay. The award can also include suit money, which is money to your attorney and to retain expert witnesses such as accountants or vocational rehabilitation experts. Once awarded, pendente lite alimony continues until a final hearing, or a merits hearing, for divorce.

The other two types of alimony, rehabilitative alimony and/or indefinite alimony, are determined at the final hearing. Indefinite alimony is alimony that will continue until the e.d.s. remarries or dies, or the Court modifies its order. Rehabilitative alimony, on the other hand, is for a limited period of time.

Beginning in the 1980's the Courts in Maryland began favoring rehabilitative alimony over indefinite alimony. However, there are instances in which indefinite alimony is appropriate. Rehabilitative alimony is most often used when the e.d.s. has a plan to return to school and obtain education or training that will allow that spouse to meet or come near the earning level of the e.i.s. The award is for a limited period of time, typically the amount of time necessary for the e.d.s. to finish school and begin their new career.

There is a statute that lists the factors the Court must consider when considering an alimony claim. The Court doesn't have to treat each factor equally. Therefore there is no objective way to determine the likely amount, or duration, of an alimony award. Each case is different. However, if alimony is an issue in your situation, you should think about these things:

    1. the ability of the party seeking alimony to be wholly or partly self- supporting;

    2. the time necessary for the party seeking alimony to gain sufficient education or training to enable that party to find suitable employment;

    3. the standard of living that the parties established during their marriage;

    4. the duration of the marriage;

    5. the contributions, monetary and non-monetary, of each party to the well- being of the family;

    6. the circumstances that contributed to the estrangement of the parties;

    7. the age of each party;

    8. (8) the physical and mental condition of each party;

    9. the ability of the party from whom alimony is sought to meet that party's needs while meeting the needs of the party seeking alimony;

    10. any agreement between the parties;

    11. the financial needs and financial resources of each party, including:

      1. all income and assets, including property that does not produce income;

      2. any award made under 8-205 and 8-208 of this article (mutual property and use and possession);

      3. the nature and amount of the financial obligations of each party; and

      4. the right of each party to receive retirement benefits; and

    12. whether the award would cause a spouse who is a resident of a related institution as defined in 19-301 of the Health-General Article and from whom alimony is sought to become eligible for medical assistance earlier than would otherwise occur. Md. Fam. Law Code Ann. Section 11-106.

An award of indefinite alimony also requires a finding by the Court that because of age or medical condition, the e.d.s. can not reasonably be expected to make substantial progress toward becoming self-supporting. Alternatively the Court may find that the e.d.s. has made as much progress towards being self-supporting as can be reasonably expected, but the respective standards of living are unconscionably disparate.

If indefinite alimony is awarded and the financial circumstances change, the Court can modify the alimony. This does, however, require a trip back to Court for modification.

Alimony is ordinarily taxable income to the spouse who receives it and non-taxable to the spouse who is paying it. In other words, alimony payments you make comes from tax-free money, but if you receive the payments you should plan ahead for the financial burden the tax liability will create. Also, alimony is ordinarily not dischargeable in bankruptcy. Finally, alimony can be extended by the Court after an award would ordinarily have terminated if the failure to extend the award would result in a harsh and inequitable result.

In closing, there are many twists and turns to an alimony award. When you talk to your lawyer, be sure to tell him or her about the facts in your case that relate to the information provided above. Then he or she can advise you of the likelihood of alimony being awarded in your case.

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