If you are headed toward divorce in Annapolis, or anywhere else in Maryland, you may be wondering if alimony is guaranteed in all of the state’s divorce cases. In a word, “no.” Alimony (spousal support) is not automatic or guaranteed in Maryland divorces. Generally, it comes down to a spouse’s need for financial support, and the higher-earning spouse’s ability to pay it.
What is alimony? It is a periodic payment that a higher-earning spouse pays to a lower-earning spouse during or after a divorce so the dependent spouse can adjust to their new economic situation. For example, it’s common to see alimony awarded in the case of a stay-at-home parent or a homemaker, so he or she isn’t penniless while they re-enter the workforce. The purpose of alimony is not to financially support the dependent spouse indefinitely; it’s to assist them as they work toward becoming financially independent.
Factors Considered By the Judge
In Maryland separations and divorces, a spouse has no legal obligation to pay alimony until the family court issues a court order. When a judge is deciding whether or not to order spousal support, he or she will consider a number of factors, such as:
- The length of the couple’s marriage;
- The age and health of both spouses;
- Each spouse’s earning capacity;
- Each spouse’s assets, debts, and expenses;
- If there are minor children at home; and
- How the couple handled their finances during the marriage.
If a spouse wishes to seek spousal support, he or she can seek alimony as a part of their divorce complaint, or the couple can agree on incorporating alimony into their separation agreement. In Maryland divorces, spouses can agree to their own alimony terms; however, the amount can be modified by a judge, unless the couple’s separation agreement clearly states that the court cannot modify it.
“What about adultery? Can a cheating spouse be barred from receiving alimony in Maryland?” It is possible, but there is no guarantee. Maryland is a mixed state, meaning spouses can obtain divorces based on fault or no-fault grounds. Even if a divorce is filed based on the fault-based ground, adultery, it does not mean a cheating spouse will be barred from receiving alimony.
A judge may consider adultery, but a judge can swing either way – it’s all fact specific. Generally, judges only consider adultery when it affected the economic circumstances of the dependent or supported spouse. For example, if a cheating husband paid for his girlfriend’s apartment for a year with marital funds, this can definitely be factored into the alimony award for his wife.
Contact the Law Office of Nicholas T. Exarhakis for all of your divorce needs.