Do You Need Help and Guidance From an Experienced Spousal Support Attorney in Rockville, Maryland?
Your change in marital status will affect your financial future. As you proceed through your divorce and diligently plan for strong financial standing in the next chapters of your life, you need an experienced guide at this juncture to protect and pursue your financial interests. Whether you expect to be on the receiving or paying end of spousal support (alimony), our founding spousal support attorney at the Law Offices of Ellen L. Lee is heavily equipped with the requisite skills and knowledge to assist you in seeking appropriate terms for spousal support after divorce in Maryland.
Our firm has over three decades of experience in helping clients arrive at a level of alimony that is fair, sufficient, and realistic. We can pursue your interests and goals in this matter through negotiation, in mediation, or in court.
Find out how we can help you navigate the issue of spousal support by discussing the unique details of your case with our founding attorney, Ellen L. Lee, by phone, by video over Zoom, or in person at our boutique law office in Rockville, Maryland. Schedule your confidential and convenient consultation at the Law Offices of Ellen L. Lee via our online request form or by calling us directly at (301) 279-0692(301) 279-0692.
The Three Types and Purposes of Alimony Following a Maryland Divorce
The main purpose of alimony (also called spousal support) is to provide an opportunity for the recipient spouse to become financially self-sufficient. Maryland law recognizes three types of alimony:
- Temporary alimony (pendente lite alimony) is temporary and maintains the status quo during the divorce process.
- Rehabilitative alimony is awarded for a specific period of time to allow the recipient spouse to become financially independent, perhaps by gaining new job skills or furthering their education.
- Indefinite alimony may be awarded when the recipient cannot reasonably be expected to make substantial progress toward becoming self-supporting due to age or disability, or when the parties’ standards of living are unconscionably disparate.
One of these three types of alimony may apply to you following a divorce in Maryland.
Also known as pendente lite alimony, temporary alimony is available only while your divorce case remains open. Once your divorce becomes final, the amount of spousal support may change or stop altogether, depending on the terms of the divorce order.
Rehabilitative alimony begins when the divorce becomes final and lasts for a finite period of time. The purpose is to give the spouse who needs support a reasonable time to become financially independent.
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Indefinite alimony is rarely granted, with two notable exceptions:
- If your age, health, or disability status makes you incapable of becoming self-supporting;
- If you have made genuine efforts to become self-supporting, yet the relative standard of living of you and your spouse remains extremely lopsided (usually if the disparity is at least a 3:1 or 4:1 in income difference).
Courts rarely order indefinite spousal support. In contrast, rehabilitative alimony is often granted. The spirit of alimony awards in the majority of cases is to help the receiving spouse become self-supporting
At the Law Offices of Ellen L. Lee in Rockville, our founding divorce attorney can advise you regarding which type of alimony — if any — is likely to apply to your situation. Contact us today to schedule a convenient and confidential consultation with our founding attorney.
Eligibility Factors Courts Use to Determine Spousal Support Payments in Maryland
In Maryland, an alimony award is not automatically granted in divorce proceedings. The court considers a number of factors to determine whether alimony should be awarded, as well as the appropriate terms and amounts.
Eligibility factors affecting spousal support in Maryland include:
- Ability to Self-Support: The court examines whether the party seeking alimony can be self-supporting, taking into account their age, physical and mental condition, and ability to work.
- Level of Education: Sometimes a spouse will need additional education or training to be able to self-support, and this may be due to previous coordination of household duties in relation to breadwinning duties among the spouses. Consequently, a spouse may require support while pursuing more advanced education or training.
- Length of Marriage: While there’s no specific time frame for how long a couple must be married to be eligible for alimony, the length of the marriage is a factor considered by the court.
- Standard of Living: The standard of living that was established during the marriage is also taken into account.
- Financial Resources: The financial resources of each party, both during the marriage and projected for the future, are examined. This includes the incomes of both spouses, as well as their assets, financial needs, and obligations.
- Marital Fault: Maryland considers marital fault when determining alimony payments. “At-fault” divorces, which may be caused by infidelity/adultery, abuse, etc., might impact the alimony decision.
- Other Factors: The court can consider any other factor it deems necessary, including the contributions of each party to the family’s well-being, the reasons for the parties’ divorce, each party’s financial needs and resources, and the age, physical health, and mental health of both spouses.
The People’s Law Library of Maryland has developed an estimation resource. However, you should always consult an experienced Maryland family attorney for accurate information when calculating alimony. You will need an experienced lawyer to negotiate the appropriate level of spousal support.
Our founding Rockville alimony lawyer with over three decades of experience in Montgomery County can represent you whether you are seeking or contesting alimony. If negotiation doesn’t work, we can argue your position before the court.
Ethical Considerations in Maryland Alimony Cases
One essential ethical step is full financial disclosure. Both parties should be honest and transparent about their financial situation, including income, assets, and debts. Concealing assets or misrepresenting income in order not to pay alimony is not only unethical, but could also lead to legal consequences.
Additionally, both parties should act in good faith throughout the process. For example, a spouse should not quit a job or intentionally reduce their income to affect alimony eligibility.
Seek legal counsel from an experienced Maryland spousal support attorney to understand the implications of these factors and how they apply to your specific situation.
A Change in the Recipient’s Marital Status or Cohabitation Affects Alimony
If the recipient remarries, alimony typically ends unless otherwise specified in the divorce agreement. However, if the recipient is cohabiting with a partner in a marriage-like relationship, the court may modify or terminate alimony based on the financial contribution of the cohabitant.
It’s important to note that alimony is not meant to be a lifetime pension. Instead, Maryland courts will typically award alimony as a period of rehabilitation to assist the lower income-earning spouse transition into a self-supporting role. The goal is to ensure that both spouses can maintain a standard of living that’s reasonably comparable to the standard established during the marriage.
Can Spouses Agree to Alimony Terms Outside of Court?
In Maryland, spouses can also agree to alimony terms outside of court. This agreement is typically part of a larger settlement agreement that addresses other aspects of the divorce, such as property division and child custody.
The spouses can decide on the amount and duration of alimony payments. The terms of the alimony agreement can even be broader than what a court might decide. Such agreements decided independently of the court can often provide more control over the decision, helping to avoid the uncertainty that can come with a court decision.
These agreements are legally binding once they’re approved by the court. Therefore, both parties should fully understand the terms and implications of their agreement before signing.
If the parties cannot agree on alimony, then the court will decide based on various factors such as:
- each spouse’s financial needs
- the age of each spouse
- the health of each spouse
- the standard of living during the marriage
Unless specific circumstances apply, courts in Maryland usually uphold alimony waivers in divorce agreements. Given the legal and financial implications of these agreements, it is wise to consult with an attorney before finalizing any agreement related to alimony.
How a Prenuptial Agreement or a Postnuptial Agreement Could Affect Alimony in Maryland
In Maryland, both prenuptial agreements and postnuptial agreements can significantly impact alimony. A prenuptial agreement is a contract entered into before marriage where the couple decides on the distribution of their assets in case of divorce. Alimony can be included in this agreement, allowing couples to determine in advance whether alimony will be paid, how much is to be paid, and for how long.
A postnuptial agreement — which a couple enters into after they are married — can also include provisions regarding alimony. For instance, spouses can allocate marital assets in a postnuptial agreement based on whether a spouse engaged in adultery.
However, there are circumstances where a court might not uphold an agreement waiving the right to alimony — particularly if enforcing the agreement would cause one party to become a public charge.
The enforceability of prenuptial and postnuptial agreements is governed by contract law. To be enforceable, these agreements must be in writing, voluntarily entered into, and not unconscionably unfair when they’re executed. Speak with your alimony lawyer regarding whether and how a particular agreement you made with your spouse or former spouse will affect the possibility of an alimony award in your specific situation.
Important Differences Between Spousal Support and Child Support in Maryland
Spousal support and child support serve different purposes and are calculated based on different factors. Spousal support is a payment made from one former spouse to the other following a divorce, whereas child support is a payment made by one parent to the other for the benefit of their children.
Spousal Support and Child Support Serve Different Purposes
The purpose of spousal support is to limit any unfair economic effects of a divorce by providing a continuing income to a non-wage-earning or lower-wage-earning spouse. In contrast, the purpose of child support is to ensure both parents fulfill a legal duty to support their child based on their ability to provide that support. Spousal support funds aid the spouse and typically continue until that spouse is self-sufficient, whereas child support funds belong to the child and typically continue until they have reached 18 or 19 years old — depending on the circumstances..
Calculating Spousal Support Versus Calculating Child Support
The amount and duration of spousal support can vary widely and are determined based on factors such as the length of the marriage, the couple’s standard of living during the marriage, and the financial needs and resources of each party. Child support in Maryland is calculated using an “income shares” model, which takes into account both parents’ incomes, the number of children, and the cost of health insurance and childcare.
How Child Support and Spousal Support Terms Can Affect Each Other in Maryland
In some cases, spousal support and child support can be interrelated. For instance, the amount of spousal support received can affect the calculation of child support. If a parent receives spousal support, that income is considered when determining child support amounts. The amount of child support paid can also affect spousal support determinations, as it impacts a parent’s ability to pay spousal support.
When Does Alimony Change or End in Maryland?
Spousal support in Maryland can be modified under certain circumstances. A variety of factors may trigger a change in alimony, and these changes can be initiated by either party through a petition to the court.
Changes in Financial Circumstances
One of the key factors that might cause a change in alimony is a significant change in either party’s financial circumstances. This could include a substantial increase or decrease in income, loss of employment, or retirement.
Another factor that could lead to a modification of alimony is remarriage. If the recipient of alimony remarries, alimony payments generally end. The rationale behind this is that the new spouse is expected to contribute to the recipient’s support.
The ability of the party receiving alimony to be wholly or partly self-supporting is another crucial factor. If the recipient gains employment or otherwise improves their financial situation, the court may reduce or terminate alimony. Cohabitation without formal remarriage may affect alimony in this way.
Health Changes in Either Party
A significant change in the health of either party can also affect alimony. For example, if the recipient becomes disabled and is unable to work, they may request an increase in alimony. Conversely, if the payor becomes ill and can no longer work, they may request a reduction or termination of alimony.
It’s also worth noting that the court considers marital fault when deciding on alimony claims. For instance, if there’s an at-fault divorce caused by adultery, it could affect the alimony amount.
Death of Either Ex-Spouse
Alimony usually ends when either the recipient or the payor dies. However, if the court order or agreement specifies that alimony continues after the death of the payor and becomes a charge against their estate, then alimony could continue.
Schedule a Consultation to Discuss Your Spousal Support Matter with Ellen L. Lee to Leverage Over 35 Years of Experience Practicing Family Law in Montgomery County, Maryland
For over three decades, Ellen L. Lee has devoted herself to helping individuals and families in Montgomery County, Maryland with their family law requirements. With her deep knowledge and experience in counseling and psychology further informing her decades-long career as a compassionate and dedicated family law attorney, she is well-prepared to offer personalized assistance and care during what may prove to be a difficult time.
Seek experienced guidance on Maryland spousal support from our lawyers. Contact us at the Law Offices of Ellen L. Lee, LLC today through our online form or by calling (301) 279-0692(301) 279-0692 to schedule a confidential consultation. During this in-depth information-gathering session, our founding attorney will meet with you by phone, by video via Zoom, or in person at our boutique family law office in Rockville, Maryland to discuss the details of your case and your spousal support goals. We can also schedule evening or weekend appointments to meet your needs.
Why Choose the Law Offices of Ellen L. Lee
Ellen L. Lee has devoted over 35 years of unwavering commitment to aiding individuals and families in Montgomery County, Maryland with their family law needs. Grounded in counseling and psychology, she provides personalized guidance and assistance to her clients in an inviting atmosphere — prioritizing effective communication while forging new beginnings amidst family law disputes.
- Tenacious & Compassionate Legal Support
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- Full Range of Family Law Services
- Flexible Consultation Times: Nights and Weekends are Available
- Over 35 Years of Experience Practicing Family Law in Montgomery County, Maryland
Our Founding Attorney conveniently meets with clients via phone, video conference, or in person at our office in Rockville, Maryland.