Spousal support, or alimony remains one of the most contentious aspects of a divorce. While some might argue that spousal support is an antiquated idea, the court disagrees. There are a lot of unique factors involved in each marriage and each divorce, and there are many cases in which spousal support is fair, just, and necessary.
The courts have certainly strayed away from awarding lifetime spousal support, but they do award rehabilitative alimony in appropriate circumstances.
Whether you are the spouse seeking spousal support or the spouse who may have to provide it, make certain that you have substantial evidence to support your best interests and that your divorce settlement spells out the specifics (duration, amount, etc.) of the payments in detail. Our spousal support attorneys can help. Call the alimony law firm of Hecht & Associates for a consult with an alimony lawyer at 301-587-2099.
When is spousal support (alimony) appropriate?
Spousal support is never automatic or guaranteed and it is not appropriate in all cases. The party requesting spousal support will have to specifically request it and then back up this request and need for spousal support with evidence. It is generally fitting when one spouse has a significantly lower income due to circumstances such as staying at home to care for the children while the other spouse pursues a career.
These situations are quite common. In 2013, 5.21 million moms and 214,000 dads identified as stay-at-home parents, reports TIME. If a mom who has spent years caring for kids at home full- or part-time gets a divorce, she will likely need some time to get back on her feet. This is what rehabilitative alimony is for.
Spousal support is also appropriate for older individuals who have been married a long time and have not spent much time in the workforce. This can be due to homemaking, disability, or other circumstances.
How do the courts decide spousal support awards?
No two divorces are alike; the courts decide spousal support on a case-by-case basis. Judges use Maryland Code Section § 11-106 as their guidebook for determining spousal support. The statutes provide a list of 12 factors the courts can consider when deciding the fairness, amount, and duration of spousal support:
- How able the seeking spouse is to become self-sufficient
- The time the seeking spouse needs to become self-sufficient
- The standard of living both spouses are used to
- How long the marriage lasted
- The contributions each party made to the marriage (e.g., working, taking care of the care and kids)
- The cause of the divorce
- Each spouse’s age
- Physical and mental health of each spouse
- If the paying spouse can meet his or her needs while still paying spousal support
- Any prior agreement the spouses have made
- “The financial needs and financial resources of each party, including: all income and assets…, the nature and amount of the financial obligations of each party; and the right of each party to receive retirement benefits”
- If the award would cause the paying spouse “who is a resident of a related institution as defined in 19-301 of the Health – General Article” (i.e., nursing home) to qualify for medical assistance earlier than previously thought
The court can still award spousal support indefinitely, but this only applies to cases where “the court finds that due to age, illness, infirmity, or disability, the party seeking spousal support cannot reasonably be expected to make substantial progress toward becoming self-supporting.”
More often, the courts will award rehabilitative spousal support for a pre-determined amount of time so that the recipient spouse can obtain the education or training to become more self-sufficient.
How do I ensure my spousal support award is fair?
Regardless of if you are the paying or recipient spouse, you will want to ensure that the spousal support award is fair and may want to consult with a spousal support lawyer. Paying spouses should not feel overly burdened with excessive payments, and recipient spouses should not have to worry themselves over how to make ends meet after the divorce.
To ensure fairness, have a divorce attorney review your alimony case and assess the situation. Your support lawyer can tell you how the courts will probably decide spousal support in your case, what a judge would consider fair, and what types of information and evidence you will need to support your case.
Be sure your lawyer is very familiar with spousal support awards and will be able to correctly articulate your position in divorce settlements. Your written settlement agreement must have very detailed language in specific sections to protect your rights. It should specify the amount and duration of spousal support, as well as any factors (e.g., cohabitation) that would nullify the award. If there are loopholes in wording, you could find yourself with challenges later down the road.
For legal help with spousal support cases or any aspect of divorce in Maryland, call Hecht & Associates to speak with a spousal support attorney. Contact us today about alimony cases at 301-587-2099 for a consultation with an alimony attorney.