The thought of having to pay alimony in Maryland makes some people cringe. Unfortunately, many litigated divorce cases result in one spouse paying the other spouse alimony. There is no requirement that a judge award alimony, and the parties are encouraged to settle out of court so that they can come to an arrangement that works for both of them.
Maryland law provides two different types of alimony—rehabilitative alimony and indefinite alimony. Rehabilitative alimony is designed to help a spouse transition through divorce, particularly when one spouse has a significantly higher income than the other. Rehabilitative alimony can help the payee spouse while he or she is finishing school or assist the payee until he or she can find a full time job and become self-supporting. While there are no statutory guidelines for alimony in Maryland, Judges favor rehabilitative alimony. There are twelve statutory factors that Judges must consider before making an award of (or declining to award) alimony based on the circumstances of each individual case. Longer marriages, where one spouse stayed home or worked less to take care of the children or household tasks, are more likely to include an award of alimony rather than shorter marriages or marriages where the parties have similar incomes.
For those who choose not to role the dice and see what a Judge will order, entering into a written settlement agreement is one of the best options. Parties have many options for alimony when entering into an agreement. Generally, alimony is taxable to the payee and tax-deductible for the payor, but the parties can agree. Additionally, the parties can agree to make the alimony modifiable or non-modifiable. Parties can also agree to a tiered approach, where the amount will decrease gradually after a specified term. Furthermore, parties can agree to waive alimony, or a payor can give the payee spouse a lump sum payment rather than monthly payments. Yet another option is for the party with the lower income to take a disproportionate share of the parties’ assets.
While parties going through a divorce may fear the uncertainty of alimony, parties need to be aware that there are better alternatives that can be agreed upon by the parties and they can avoid the uncertainty of allowing a Judge to decide the issue. The spouses can limit the amount of legal fees and court costs that might apply if a Judge decided the matter.