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A Contested Divorce in the State of Maryland — What to Expect Regarding Alimony

on Jan 11, 2018 in Divorce

Family law cases are typically resolved by agreement between the parties in the State of Maryland.  A court then approves the aspects of the agreement.  However, when the parties, through their attorneys, comply with Maryland law, this is approval is a formality.  When the parties do not agree, on the other hand, the court issues a final judgment, resolving any remaining issues.  This final judgment by the court includes alimony.  Alimony is complicated and it is important to understand certain concepts.  When the parties cannot resolve issues of alimony, the court determines the amount and duration of alimony.  Here are some things you need to know about what to expect regarding alimony.

What to Expect Regarding Alimony in the State of Maryland

Maryland statutes, Family Law Article Title 11, govern the award of alimony.  Courts award alimony regardless of gender.  Further, unlike child support, no formula exists for calculating alimony.  The court determines the amount and period for an award of alimony.  During a trial, the parties present evidence, including facts for or against an award of alimony.  The court considers the evidence presented and makes a judgment regarding alimony.

Factors a Court Considers for an Award of Alimony

After the trial, the court weighs various factors determining a fair and equitable alimony award.  

Those factors include:

  • The ability the party seeking alimony to be wholly or partly self-supporting;
  • The time necessary for the party seeking alimony to gain sufficient education or training to enable that party to find suitable employment;
  • The standard of living that the parties established during their marriage;
  • The duration of the marriage;
  • The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family;
  • The circumstances that contributed to the estrangement of the parties;
  • The age of each party;
  • The physical and mental condition of each party;
  • 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;
  • Any agreement between the parties;
  • The financial needs and financial resources of each party, including:
  • All income and assets, including property that does not produce income;
  • Any award made under section 8-205 and 8-208 of this article;
  • The nature and amount of the financial obligations of each party; and
  • The right of each party to receive retirement benefits; and
  • Whether the award would cause a spouse who is a resident of a related institution … from whom alimony is sought to become eligible for medical assistance than would otherwise occur.

(Maryland Statutes, Family Law Article Title 11, section 106(b).)  In a contested divorce, the court considers these factors.  Additionally, the court decides the weight to give each factor.  After weighing the factors, in a contested case, the court determines the amount and duration of an award of alimony.  When alimony is contested, the parties have no input on the court’s final decision, beyond evidence and argument presented at trial.

What to Expect Regarding Alimony: The Possibility of Indefinite Award 

In a contested case, the court may award alimony for an indefinite period.  Courts award indefinite alimony after making certain findings.  Those findings include age, disability or infirmity.  Further, courts consider whether a party seeking alimony is unable to make substantial progress toward self-sufficiency.  Also, courts consider whether the respective standards of living will be unconscionably disparate after the receiving party has taken all possible steps toward self -sufficiency.   Maryland statutes, Family Law Article Title 11, section 106(c).  The court determines alimony awards for an indefinite duration in contested divorces.

What to Expect Regarding Alimony: Modification 

Following an award of alimony, a court may modify the amount and duration of the award.  Family Law Article 11, section 107.  Courts modify the duration of alimony when facts arise resulting in a harsh and inequitable result without modification of the amount and duration.  The statute goes on to provide “the court may modify the amount of alimony awarded as circumstances and justice require.”  

Note, the court may only modify alimony in cases where it retains jurisdiction.  The parties can agree to eliminate the jurisdiction of the court to modify alimony in the future.

Termination of Alimony

Alimony terminates “on the death of either party; on the marriage of the recipient; or if the court finds that termination is necessary to avoid a harsh and inequitable result,” unless the parties to agree otherwise.  Family Law Article 11, section 108.

Again, in a contested case, the statute determines when alimony payments will end.  Note, the parties may determine when alimony terminates if they resolve the issue of alimony by agreement.  However, when the divorce case is contested as a whole, or alimony is contested, the court, not the parties, makes the decision.

Alimony When Considering a Contested Divorce

Courts exercise considerable discretion over alimony in contested divorces.  Courts determine the amount and duration of an award of alimony.  The court retains jurisdiction over the issue of alimony after entry of judgment.  When appropriate, a court can modify the amount and duration of the alimony.  Maryland statue determines the termination of alimony.  

However, an agreement by the parties on alimony avoids all of this.  The parties agree to the amount, duration and basis for termination of alimony.  The parties also agree that the court will not have jurisdiction to change alimony in the future.  Prior to a contested divorce, wise parties consider the enormous authority of the court when the parties cannot resolve alimony.  An agreement on alimony provides finality to the parties, both in the near term and into the future.

Considering Divorce?

If you are considering divorce, contact Fait & DiLima.  Our attorneys specialize in family law issues, including divorce, alimony, child support and child custody.  We offer a variety of methods for resolving your divorce case, including mediation and collaborative law.  Of course, if your divorce cannot be resolved by agreement, we are prepared to litigate the issues on your behalf.  Contact us today for a consultation.