Is Alimony Guaranteed in Maryland Divorce Cases?

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.

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