Gaithersburg, Rockville, Germantown Maryland Alimony Lawyer
Alimony, also known as spousal support and maintenance, is exactly what the name describes. One spouse supports the other while the two are separated and/or divorced. Alimony should not be confused with child support. Alimony decisions only take into consideration the support one spouse needs from the other in order to support him- or herself. Child support is for support of the minor children of the parties and is presumed not to be used for the support of the custodial parent.
There are several kinds of alimony in Maryland. Your Maryland divorce attorney at Lustig & Gudis, LLC can discuss how alimony/spousal support and maintenance fits into your particular situation.
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Alimony can be indefinite, rehabilitative or Pendente Lite. No alimony award can be granted unless either a Limited or Absolute divorce is sought at the same time. In addition to the pleadings filed by a party requesting alimony, the parties will both need to file a Financial Statement. This statement, done on a form designed by the Court, sets out the monthly expenses and income of the parties. The expenses are divided into categories, such as medical expenses, home expenses, etc. Each party is required to apportion his or her expenses between themselves and the minor children, if any. However, the expenses for the party are the expenses looked at closely by the Court in making a decision as to the support of a party.
The Financial Statement also includes a detailed section for the party’s income. Both the gross income and the net monthly income are important and thus are calculated on the statement. Each deduction from the gross income is required in order to determine the accurate net income. Because a party may be paid on a weekly, bi-weekly, bi-monthly or monthly basis, the monthly amounts for the gross income and the deductions can be tricky to calculate. Your Maryland divorce lawyer will be able to competently make these calculations for you, arriving at your accurate gross and net income. The Court will look at the net income in determining the need for and availability of funds for an alimony award.
Each party’s Financial Statement is crucial in the determination of all of the types of alimony. While it is hoped that each party will be accurate and honest, unfortunately this is sometimes not the case. It is important that you provide your Maryland divorce attorney complete financial information. Your divorce attorney will be able to defend the figures you provided and question and cross-examine those figures provided by your spouse. The experience and expertise of your attorney is crucial in this regard.
Specifically, your Maryland divorce attorney will point out inconsistencies and untruthful entries in the other party’s Financial Statement at such a hearing. You and your attorney will work closely together to determine which entries, if any, do not look “right” to you, or which are unreasonably high or low.
Pendente Lite Alimony
A case for divorce and alimony may take many months. Aware of this fact, Maryland law provides for the support of dependent spouses and children prior to a final or “merits” hearing so that the status quo is maintained and the party requesting support does not suffer financial hardship. A party can request a Pendente Lite hearing to determine temporary alimony and child support. Pendente Lite means “pending litigation” and refers to relief ordered by the Court that will continue until a further Court order, usually the final judgment of divorce.
Pendente Lite alimony is determined and based on the need of the dependent party and the ability to pay of the more financially secure party. “Need” is determined by looking at the party’s expenses for him- or herself compared to the party’s net income on the Financial Statement as well as the lifestyle of the parties prior to the litigation. If the party has a deficit, or prior to the end of each month, there may be a need for Pendente Lite spousal support. The Court will then turn to the Financial Statement of the other party. First a comparison of that party’s net income and expenses will be done to determine if he or she has a surplus of funds that can be used to pay alimony and so determine the party’s “ability to pay”. A determination of the appropriate amount of alimony will then be made and ordered.
Rehabilitative Alimony and Indefinite Alimony
Once you reach your final merits hearing, the Court will make a determination of indefinite alimony or rehabilitative alimony. Rehabilitative alimony differs from indefinite alimony in that it is ordered for a set number of months as opposed to indefinite alimony which is, as the name suggests, ordered for an indefinite number of months.
Unlike child support, there are no worksheets to use in calculating alimony. The decision whether to award alimony as well as the type and the amount of alimony, is made by a judge after hearing the cases presented by both parties. It is important to have an attorney experienced in presenting or defending alimony cases, such as the attorneys of Lustig & Gudis, LLC. Although there are no guidelines, the Court must actively consider all of the factors set out in the Maryland Code Annotated Family Law Article, § 11-106(b) in making an alimony determination. They include:
- (1) The above described “need” and “ability to pay”. These factors remain important regardless of the type of alimony sought. Therefore the Financial Statements filed for the pendente lite also remains important, although you may revise it if your financial situation has changed since the pendente lite hearing.
- (2) Whether the party seeking alimony can benefit from advanced education and/or training in order to become self-supporting, and the amount of time this education and/or training is likely to take.
- (3) The standard of living the parties established during the marriage. Although the Court will recognize that two households are more expensive than one, the equitable goal is to bring both parties to a standard of living that approximates the parties’ former standard of living.
- (4) The length of the marriage. Alimony is less likely when the marriage has been very short.
- (5) The monetary and non-monetary contributions of each spouse to the marriage. The financial contribution is not considered superior to the non-financial contribution which includes maintenance and care of the marital home and care of minor children.
- (6) The circumstance that led to the end of the marriage. This component is considered even in cases where the grounds for the divorce itself are one of the no-fault grounds.
- (7) The age of each party. The older and less-likely to be re-trained a party is, the more likely indefinite alimony becomes.
- (8) The physical and mental condition of each party.
- (9) Any agreement the parties have reached concerning alimony. An agreement can be either one the parties reach themselves or one that they reach with the help of their divorce lawyers or otherwise through mediation or collaborative law.
- (10) The financial resources of each party, including all assets and income, property owned that does not produce income, any monetary award or award of use and possession of the marital home and/or family use personal property, all financial obligations of each party and the right of each party to receive retirement benefits.
No two cases are alike, so the skill of your Maryland divorce attorney will affect the arguments presented either requesting or defending an alimony claim. While the Maryland Courts favor rehabilitative alimony as opposed to indefinite alimony, indefinite alimony is granted in situations where it produces a just and equitable result such as when a spouse is too elderly or infirmed to support him- or herself, or when the spouse seeking alimony will not be able to be completely self-supporting despite additional education or training. Your Maryland divorce attorney at Lustig & Gudis, LLC will be able to help you decide on all matters relating to alimony and spousal support and maintenance.