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Alimony in Maryland
Alimony can be received by a person getting a divorce in Maryland in one of two ways-either the divorcing couple can agree that one person will pay the other alimony, or a court can order a party to pay alimony. Contrary to popular belief, alimony can be awarded to either a woman OR a man.
The two basic types of court-ordered alimony in Maryland are rehabilitative and indefinite alimony. Rehabilitative alimony lasts for a fixed amount of time. The idea behind it is to give the person who is receiving it the opportunity to become self-supporting. Indefinite alimony, on the other hand, is precisely that--indefinite. It is awarded to a person when a court finds one of two things: (1) that due to that person's physical condition, the party seeking alimony cannot be expected to become self-supporting; or (2) that even if the person seeking the alimony has made as much progress to become self-sufficient as can reasonably be expected, the standards of living of each of the parties will still be grossly different. A person should not confuse "indefinite" alimony with "permanent" alimony as a court could reduce the alimony payments to a person, or end them altogether.
When deciding whether or not it will award a party alimony, a court must consider by law a number of factors. These factors include the ability of the person who would receive the alimony to become self-supporting; the standard of living the couple enjoyed during their marriage; the length of the marriage; the age, physical and mental condition of each of the parties; the ability of the person who might have to pay the alimony to meet his or her financial obligations while still paying alimony; the financial needs and resources of each party; why the parties are getting a divorce; and what each person contributed to the marriage, both in terms of money and non-monetary contributions.
As stated above, court-ordered rehabilitative alimony only lasts as long as a court says that it will. Additionally, as a general matter, unless the parties agree otherwise, alimony ends when either party dies, when the receiver of the alimony remarries, or if a court determines that the alimony needs to end in the interest of fairness.
Also, temporary alimony can be awarded by a court pending the resolution of a divorce lawsuit. This temporary alimony is called alimony pendente lite. When awarding alimony pendente lite, who is at fault in the pending divorce is not a consideration; rather, what is considered is the financial need of the person to whom alimony might be awarded, and the ability of the other party to pay.
As stated earlier, alimony can also be paid to one person if the parties agree that this will happen. It is often a good idea for the parties to consult with attorneys before entering into such an agreement so that the agreement can be properly drafted and so that it fully and legally captures the intent of the parties. A properly drafted agreement should spell out things such as the alimony amount, how often this amount is to be paid, and when the payments are to end. The terms of the agreement should be carefully considered to avoid problems in the future. For example, suppose you and your ex-spouse have an agreement where you pay her $400 a month until one of you dies or she remarries. Under Maryland law, this would probably mean she would still be entitled to the payments even if she started to live with someone in a marriage-like arrangement, but did not marry that person. A properly drafted agreement can avoid problems such as this one.
If you are contemplating getting a divorce and want to figure out whether you might be able to receive alimony, or you are concerned that you might have to pay alimony, you should consult with an attorney who can advise you as to the best way to proceed.
This article is general in nature and you should check with a lawyer in your community for specific legal advice once the facts of your specific situation are taken into account.
The Maryland courts will always determine child custody based on the best interests of the children.
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