How Do Courts Determine Alimony?
When you consult a family attorney in Owings Mills, one of the questions you will be asked is whether you plan to seek spousal support or alimony . If not, your divorce attorney will consider the likelihood that the court will order you to pay alimony to your soon-to-be ex-spouse. The court has broad discretion in deciding whether to award alimony. The judge will consider all relevant factors to establish a fair and equitable award.
It’s always best to consult a divorce attorney before making any agreements directly with your spouse or your spouse’s lawyer. If you sign any agreement regarding spousal support, the court is likely to be bound by the terms of that document. And after a divorce is finalized, you forfeit your right to seek alimony. For example, if you signed an agreement stating that you would not seek alimony and the court is bound by this agreement, you cannot request spousal support later on.
When considering whether to order alimony payments, the court is likely to consider marital factors such as the length of the marriage. There is generally a greater likelihood of awarding alimony if the marriage was substantial in duration. The court might also consider the circumstances that led to the breakdown of the marriage.
The financial resources of each spouse will be carefully considered in every alimony decision. The court will consider the assets and needs of each spouse. For instance, if one spouse demonstrates a need for spousal support, the judge will consider the ability of the other spouse to pay alimony. The standard of living that each spouse enjoyed during the marriage is another relevant factor. The judge can also consider the monetary contributions that each spouse made to the family during the marriage.
It is not uncommon for one spouse to demonstrate a poor earning history during the marriage if that spouse agreed to relocate or otherwise stop working for the sake of the career of the other spouse. Because of this and other factors, the judge will consider each spouse’s earning history in light of his or her earning capacity. In some cases, one spouse is awarded rehabilitative alimony, which is intended to provide for education or vocational training to improve the earning capacity of that spouse.
Determining the Amount of Alimony
When one spouse is financially dependent on the other during a marriage, the issue of spousal support through alimony payments is determined during the divorce process. Alimony payments may be required only during the divorce process, or for a definite or even indefinite time after the marriage has ended, depending on the needs of the dependent spouse and the financial status of the supportive spouse, amongst other things.
To determine the amount and type of alimony required, a judge will consider factors such as the length of the marriage, the ages of both parties seeking the divorce, and the ability of the dependent spouse to become financially self-supporting in the future. If you believe you should receive alimony or you are concerned about the amount of alimony your spouse is requesting following your divorce, it’s important to seek the help of an experienced family attorney near Owings Mills. Your family lawyer will use his knowledge of alimony laws to ensure the correct amount of spousal support is mandated before your divorce is finalized.
Types of Alimony
Alimony is financial support awarded to one spouse during divorce proceedings to allow him or her to maintain a certain standard of living after the marriage ends. Because alimony is often a very contentious issue, you will need a divorce attorney in Owings Mills to argue for the right kind of alimony for you.
There are a few different types of alimony. Alimony pendente lite is paid during the divorce process but does not ensure that alimony will be awarded when the divorce is complete. Rehabilitative alimony, which is the most common form, is paid post-divorce for a specific period of time to allow the recipient to complete education or job training that will allow him or her to become self-sufficient. Indefinite alimony is typically only awarded if the recipient has an illness or disability that prevents him or her from become self-sufficient. It is also awarded if the court determines that one party’s living standard is significantly disparate from his or her ex. Rehabilitative alimony can be modifiable or non-modifiable, meaning the court may not be able to make any changes to it once it is ordered. However, indefinite alimony is generally modifiable. A divorce lawyer can help you understand which type of alimony is best suited to your needs under Maryland law.
Advice for Negotiating Alimony Settlements
If you’re going through a divorce, you may need to discuss alimony laws in Owings Mills , or anywhere in the Baltimore metro region, with your divorce lawyer. Alimony is typically awarded based upon the financial resources of each partner, including assets, income, expenses, benefits, and bonuses. Here is some advice for negotiating an alimony settlement during your divorce proceedings.
Evaluate Your Spouse’s Resources
The judge presiding over your divorce case will use financial records to determine how much alimony you should be awarded. Even in an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse will need to file financial affidavits with the court that detail your financial resources and expenses. These affidavits will determine both your spouse’s ability to pay, and your own financial needs. These affidavits should detail you and your spouse’s separate assets, your individual monthly income and expenses, and any regular bonuses, benefits, or overtime wages that either of you receive. They should also include an itemization of money that is in stock portfolios, IRA accounts, and any other savings or investment accounts that either of you hold.
Evaluate Your Needs and Expenses
You and your divorce lawyer will then need to evaluate your personal needs and anticipated expenses. You should look at the difference between your monthly income and your monthly expenses, and then compare it to the financial resources that you have, and your spouse’s financial resources. There is no standard formula used in alimony negotiations to determine the appropriate amount of alimony that should be awarded. Your divorce lawyer will just have to ask for the amount that you believe you will need in order to meet your expenses.
Consider Your Child Support Award
Child support orders are separate from alimony orders, but you should still consider your childcare expenses when negotiating alimony. You cannot include child support expenses in your alimony request. Instead, you should factor in the additional monetary support you will receive for child support in an effort to ensure your alimony request is fair. Your spouse cannot reduce the amount of child support that he pays in order to increase your alimony award, however.
Advice for Dealing with Alimony Disputes
Alimony, or spousal support, is money that the court may order one ex-spouse to pay to the other for the purpose of maintaining the same standard of living that was enjoyed during the marriage, or to maintain a standard of living similar to the other spouse. There are many types of disputes that may arise pertaining to alimony. For all of them, you can turn to your divorce lawyer for assistance. You may experience alimony disputes while the divorce is still pending. For example, your spouse may argue against the amount of the payments. Either spouse may attempt to hide assets to obtain a financially favorable outcome. It’s also common for alimony disputes to arise well after the divorce has been finalized, such as the failure of one spouse to make payments.
Maintain Detailed Records
Keeping your financial records up-to-date is always a good idea, especially if you are paying or receiving alimony, or if you expect to do so in the future. For example, before you have your family lawyer file the divorce petition, create a detailed inventory of all of your assets and your spouse’s assets. This reduces the possibility that your spouse will try to conceal assets. Moving forward, retain copies of your recent bank account statements, pay stubs, and receipts for any major purchases.
File a Motion for Enforcement
If you are receiving alimony payments and your ex-spouse suddenly stops making payments or only submits partial payments, it’s time to schedule another appointment with your family law attorney. Depending on the circumstances, you may wish to speak with your ex-spouse first to determine why he or she has stopped sending payments. If the problem occurred because of job loss, you might consider having your lawyer draft a written agreement to temporarily modify the alimony arrangement. Otherwise, you can ask your family law attorney to file a motion for enforcement or petition for contempt. This is a petition that requests the court to enforce the court-ordered alimony agreement.
Petition the Court for a Modified Order
Either spouse may consult an attorney to seek a modified alimony agreement. If you’ve experienced a significant change in circumstances that requires you to receive more or pay less alimony, you can ask your attorney to file a petition with the court. Be prepared to show documentation to prove your change in circumstances.
Facts About Alimony Modifications
In Maryland, divorce laws allow the court to award alimony for the purpose of maintaining a standard of living that is comparable to the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, or at least comparable to the other spouse. Consider talking to a divorce lawyer about the alimony laws in Maryland and places like Pikesville that may apply to you. Like child support, alimony arrangements may be modifiable later on if either ex-spouse’s financial circumstances change.
Letting the Court Determine Alimony
In Maryland, spouses who do not have children in common and who agree to a divorce settlement outside of court can seek an absolute divorce on the grounds of mutual consent. The divorce settlement must include provisions for spousal support, if applicable. However, it isn’t necessarily in either party’s best interests to sign an agreement for spousal support, rather than letting the judge determine the amount and type of support. This is because the court is required to honor these agreements. In other words, either party may not seek a modification through the court in the event that circumstances change. Talk to your alimony lawyer about letting the court determine the matter of spousal support.
Extending or Terminating Alimony
A Maryland court may award alimony pendente lite. This is temporary alimony that is only paid while the divorce is pending. When alimony continues after the divorce is finalized, it is either rehabilitative (short-term) or indefinite. If a spouse was awarded rehabilitative alimony, he or she may petition the court to extend the period in which he or she will receive payments as long as the rehabilitative alimony is modifiable. To argue the spouse’s case, the divorce lawyer may demonstrate that the recipient spouse is unable to become fully self-supporting. Alternatively, a spouse may petition to terminate rehabilitative or indefinite alimony. A termination may be called for if the payor spouse is no longer financially able to make the payments or if the recipient spouse becomes self-supporting.
Modifying the Amount of the Payments
During a divorce, it is impossible to foresee unexpected circumstances such as job loss or reduced wages. There may come a time when the payor spouse is not able to make the full alimony payments. Or, the recipient spouse may receive an inheritance or other sizable financial gift. In either circumstance, one of the spouses may petition the court to modify the amount of the payments.
Reasons the Court May Award Indefinite Alimony
Inform your attorney in Owings Mills if you plan to seek alimony, or spousal support, or if you suspect your spouse may seek alimony payments from you. Under family law, alimony is intended to maintain the standard of living for the parties after the divorce. When a judge awards alimony, it is typically restricted to a set period of time. However, indefinite alimony may be awarded in certain cases. When indefinite alimony is awarded, alimony laws still permit modification of the arrangement later on.
As your family lawyer can advise you, the court may award indefinite alimony if the party seeking payments cannot reasonably become self-supporting due to disability, illness, infirmity, or age. Even after the party seeking support makes reasonable progress toward becoming self-supported, indefinite alimony may be awarded if the separate standards of living of both parties are unconscionably disparate. Determining whether standards of living are unconscionably disparate is left to the discretion of the court.
What You Need to Know About Modifying Alimony Agreements
If you plan to seek alimony, or spousal support, you must do so before the divorce is finalized. Speak with a family law attorney near Owings Mills about requesting alimony. As your divorce lawyer can advise you, the court has broad discretion in determining whether to award alimony, and if so, the amount of the payments and the length of time that alimony must be paid. Bear in mind that after the divorce, it is possible for either party to petition the court to have the alimony agreement modified. Alimony may be modifiable or non-modifiable.
Which Modifications May be Made?
If the alimony agreement has been established for a set time period, such as three years, then one possible modification is to extend its duration or to turn it into indefinite alimony. Other possible alimony modifications include terminating the payments and increasing or reducing the payments.
What Are the Grounds for Modifying Alimony Agreements?
Talk to your family lawyer to determine whether you have the basis for requesting a modification. Generally, alimony laws permit modifications due to significant changes in the circumstances of either party. For example, the spouse who receives alimony payments may obtain gainful employment, thus eliminating the need for support. Or, the receiving spouse may be unable to become self-supporting, which may necessitate the extension of alimony. Alimony payments may be reduced or terminated if the receiving spouse experiences a significant decline in expenses, inherits or is gifted substantial assets, or has a significant increase in income. Some of the changes in the circumstances of the party who pays alimony that may warrant a modification can include the loss of employment, significant reduction in wages, permanent disability or infirmity, or significant increase in income.
What Is a “Harsh and Inequitable Result?”
The judge may modify or terminate alimony payments if he or she determines that not doing so would lead to a “harsh and inequitable result.” Some examples of these situations include the legitimate retirement of the payor, the ability of the receiving spouse to become self-supporting, or other significant changes in circumstances.
Answers to Common Questions About Alimony Laws in Maryland
Your family lawyer can help you navigate every aspect of the divorce process, including alimony. Your family law attorney in Baltimore County and near Owings Mills can help you understand the factors the court may consider when deciding whether to award alimony, how large the payments will be, and how long the payments will continue. Be sure to write down any questions you may have about alimony when you visit your divorce lawyer.
How Is Alimony Calculated?
Alimony laws in Maryland do not establish a specific formula for determining alimony in divorce cases. The court is given the discretion to establish orders on a case-by-case basis. However, your family lawyer may be able to provide you with an estimated outcome based on his or her past experiences in court and the specific facts of your case.
What Factors Will a Judge Consider?
To determine alimony, a judge in Maryland can consider a wide range of factors. These include:
- The length of the marriage
- The standard of living for the household during the marriage
- The ages of each spouse
- The mental and physical condition of each spouse
- The needs and financial resources of the spouses
Additionally, the judge is likely to evaluate the earning capacity of the spouse who is requesting alimony . If this spouse needs education or vocational training to find gainful employment, the judge will consider how long the spouse may need.
How Long Must an Individual Pay Alimony?
There is no set timetable for alimony under Maryland laws. The judge may order retroactive alimony payments from the date the spouse filed the petition. Alimony may be paid for a set period of time or indefinitely. If alimony is established for a set period of time, Maryland law allows the recipient spouse to seek an order extending alimony for another specific period of time or indefinitely so long as no agreement is made to the contrary.
Is Alimony Taxable?
Alimony is not the same as child support. Although child support is not typically taxable, alimony is typically taxable. The spouse who receives alimony must pay taxes on the payments. The spouse who pays alimony may deduct the payments from his or her income.
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