Will Alimony be an Issue in Your Divorce Case

Will Alimony be an Issue in Your Divorce Case?

patrickcrawford | August 26, 2021

When you and your spouse decide to seek a divorce, there are lots of things to be concerned about. Where will your kids live? Will you have to move from the family home? What property will you receive? These are all issues that Maryland law requires you to resolve before the divorce can be finalized. 

However, the divorce process can become even more complicated if one spouse requests alimony, which is also called spousal support or spousal maintenance. If you think that alimony might be an issue in your divorce case, you want an experienced Annapolis alimony lawyer handling your case from the very start.

What is Alimony?

Most people understand that alimony is financial support made by one spouse to the other during or after a divorce. We often hear about alimony awards in celebrity or high-powered executive cases, and you might think that you need significant wealth for alimony to become an issue. However, alimony can be requested in divorces even when spouses do not have particularly high assets. 

First, there are three types of alimony that might be awarded under Maryland law, as follows.

Pendente Lite Alimony

This is financial support that the court awards to one spouse during the divorce proceedings. Divorce can shake up your financial situation – sometimes, immediately. One spouse might suddenly leave the house, and you might have two housing payments stretched from the same income as before. If one spouse is not currently working or is underemployed, they might need support to maintain the status quo during the divorce process. This is the purpose of pendente lite alimony, and a lawyer can advise you whether you might qualify or not. 

Rehabilitative Alimony

This type of alimony is awarded for a set duration following the finalization of the divorce.  The purpose of this type of alimony is to provide support for a lower-earning (or non-working) spouse while they have a chance to become self-supporting. The court order will specify how long the support should continue, which could be a few months or a few years, depending on different factors. Some factors considered are the length of the marriage and the anticipated time necessary for the spouse to start sufficiently earning on their own.

Indefinite Alimony

This is also known as “permanent” alimony because there is no end date to the support order. This is usually reserved for very long marriages when it is not practical for one spouse to work for various reasons. This type of alimony usually only ends when the recipient spouse gets remarried, one spouse passes away, or the payor obtains a termination of the order from the court. 

No matter what type of alimony is at issue in your case, the matter can have an impact on your financial future. You always want the right legal advice and representation in this type of case. 

When Should a Spouse Request Alimony?

There are different scenarios that can lead to alimony requests. The most common one is when one spouse works to financially support the household, while the other spouse does not work to care for children, the house, or simply because they do not have to. 

If one spouse earns a significant amount, the other might focus on philanthropic ventures more than employment. Spouses might decide that it makes financial sense for one of them to stay home and provide childcare rather than working and paying for outside childcare. If one spouse earns a living and is able to support themselves, and the other does not, alimony might be requested. 

The law recognizes that spouses work together to support a household in different ways. Therefore, it is unfair for one spouse to take their entire salary post-divorce and maintain their standard of living, while the other spouse struggles to find suitable work and cannot pay the bills. 

Often, if a spouse takes time away from the workforce, it will then take time for them to obtain the education, training, or experience needed to find a suitable job. This spouse might request rehabilitative alimony to provide assistance while they take time to build their career. It is important that the spouse actually takes steps to become self-sufficient, as the alimony might expire or the payor might argue to the court that the recipient has no intention of finding work. 

In some situations, such as when a long marriage ends later in life, it might never be reasonable to expect one spouse to support themselves. This might happen when:

  • The spouse is older than or close to retirement age already.
  • The spouse never worked or was out of the workforce for many decades,
  • The spouse has a mental or physical disability that prevents them from working.
  • The working spouse earns such an extensive salary that the differences in their lifestyles would be unconscionable without an indefinite alimony award.

In these situations, the court can consider awarding indefinite alimony. This award does not have a condition that the spouse tries to support themselves, as it is simply financial support without any legal strings attached.

If you and your spouse will be in different earning situations post-divorce, one of you might request alimony from the other. Spouses should not request alimony to make the other spouse angry or try to get financial revenge, as this can only cause costly delays in the divorce process. Discuss whether alimony might be warranted in your situation with your attorney.

Alimony Can be a Stressful Issue

When a judge orders child support, it is because parents always have an obligation to support their children, and parents are often willing to do so when able. However, few people want to support their ex-spouses in the months or years after a divorce is final. For this reason, alimony can be a highly contentious issue in a divorce case. 

Often, the initial reaction is to refuse to agree to alimony, which can present the need for negotiations between attorneys or participation in mediation. If you cannot agree regarding alimony, your attorney can advise you on the best course of action to try to avoid litigation on the matter. 

Unfortunately, many alimony cases do make it to court because the spouses cannot agree. The court will consider different factors, including:

  • Whether one spouse has the ability to pay support
  • Whether one spouse needs time to find employment or cannot work
  • The length of the marriage
  • The standard of living during the marriage
  • The contributions (monetary and otherwise) that each spouse made to the marriage
  • The financial resources (other than income) of each spouse
  • What caused the breakdown of the marriage (grounds for divorce)

If alimony is an issue in your divorce, there is a chance it might go to court, and you need the right attorney representing you. 

Make Sure You Have an Annapolis Alimony Lawyer On Your Side

At the Law Office of Patrick Crawford, we know that alimony can be a stressful issue in your divorce – no matter which side of the order you are on. Our Annapolis alimony lawyer works to reach a resolution that works for both you and your spouse post-divorce regarding alimony, but we are also ready to take the matter to court to protect your interests. Contact us online or by calling (410) 216-7905 if you are getting divorced. We are here to help every step of the way.

Patrick Crawford

Patrick is an Annapolis Family Lawyer dedicated to helping you through the most complex and emotional family law matters. During his career, Patrick has successfully represented countless people in divorce, child custody, child support, domestic violence and other family law cases of diverse complexity.

Years of experience: 20+ years.
Maryland Registration Status: Active and authorized to practice law.

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by attorney Patrick Crawford, who has more than 16 years of legal experience practicing family law.