Alimony in Maryland: Fixed-Term or IndefiniteIn addition to pendent lite alimony, which the Court awards to you while your case is pending, the Court also has discretion to award alimony to you at the final merits hearing, as part of its Judgment of Divorce.
After considering all the factors necessary to make a fair and equitable award, the Court will determine how much alimony to award to you and for how long. The court can award you no alimony or alimony for a certain number of years or indefinitely. Your alimony awarded is generally calculated from the date of your pleading first requesting alimony, which is usually your Complaint for Divorce.
With the adoption of the Maryland Alimony Act in 1980, the purpose of alimony changed from maintenance to economic rehabilitation. For this reason, unless you meet one of the exceptions, the alimony awarded by the Judge will be for a fixed-term (that is, for a certain number of months or years). This is called “rehabilitative alimony.” Because the courts have shifted alimony from being a “lifetime pension” to a bridge to self-support and economic self-sufficiency, the main purpose of alimony is to give you time to get education or training and re-enter the job market and become self-supporting.
There are, however, two exceptional circumstances in which the Judge may award you indefinite alimony, however. First, the Judge can award indefinite alimony when due to age, illness, infirmity, or disability, you cannot reasonably be expected to make substantial progress toward becoming self-supporting Second, the Judge can award you indefinite alimony if it’s determined that after you will have made as much progress toward becoming self-supporting as can reasonably be expected, you and your husband’s standards of living will be unconscionably disparate.
In either fixed-term or indefinite alimony, the Judge must consider and make findings on “all the factors necessary for a fair and equitable award,” including the following specific factors which are listed in the Maryland alimony statute:
(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 nonmonetary, 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) 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:
(i) all income and assets, including property that does not produce income;
(ii) any award made under §§ 8-205 and 8-208 of this article;
(iii) the nature and amount of the financial obligations of each party; and
(iv) 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.
In the final analysis, the Judge has discretion whether or not to award you any alimony. As each case is unique, the Judge, in reaching a decision, must make a fact-intensive analysis of your situation and that of your husband. Because alimony is a matter of equity, the Judge will be sensitive to the merits of your individual case and will not blindly impose a hard and fast general rule. The guiding principle for the Judge is to render an award that is fair and equitable, taking into account all factors, including those listed in the alimony statute.
In building your case for alimony, you will want to provide information in a legally admissible form that demonstrates that you deserve the alimony you want as a matter of equity and fairness.