In this article, you will learn about:
- The different kinds of alimony or spousal support awarded in Maryland divorce cases.
- How Maryland’s equitable distribution of assets affects marital property.
- What happens to debt in a divorce.
Does Maryland Recognize Alimony Or Spousal Support Awards In A Divorce Case?
Yes, Maryland recognizes alimony in divorce cases. However, alimony is not guaranteed and entirely within the Court’s discretion. In determining whether alimony is appropriate, as well as the duration and amount of any alimony awarded, the Court will look at a number of different factors. These factors include, but are not limited to, the following:
- The length of the marriage;
- The financial circumstances of the parties during the marriage and each party after they become divorced; and
- The ability of the party seeking alimony to become self-supporting after the parties have become divorced.
Oftentimes, if one spouse has become financially dependent on the other during the course of the marriage, the dependent spouse may need financial support after becoming divorced. In deciding whether alimony is appropriate and how much to award, the Court will look to ensure that the standards of living between the parties are not unconscionably disparate from each other.
For example, consider a case where one parent’s role during the marriage was to be a “stay-at-home” parent, while the other parent’s role was that of a “breadwinner” and to provide financially. In this situation, the stay-at-home parent may have forfeited valuable career and educational opportunities to assume and provide in that role during the marriage. When the parties become divorced, the stay-at-home parent is usually left at an economic disadvantage, as they haven’t spent time pursuing career opportunities and other educational endeavors. The role of alimony is to ensure that financially dependent spouse’s efforts in the relationship are recognized, while providing that spouse opportunity for them to become self-supporting in the future.
In Maryland, there are two types of alimony: Rehabilitative Alimony and Indefinite Alimony.
Rehabilitative alimony is awarded for a finite and limited period of time. It can be put in place for as little as a few months or as long as a few years after the marriage.
Rehabilitative alimony gives the receiving party enough time to get back on their feet and become self-supportive. For example, if the recipient decides to pursue educational opportunities after their divorce, Rehabilitative alimony gives them financial support during that time. This way, the recipient can pursue education and gainful employment that will allow them to become self-supporting.
Indefinite alimony (sometimes called permanent alimony) is awarded with no set end date.
Typically, indefinite alimony is awarded when one party doesn’t have the ability to become self-supporting in the future. For example, if the receiving spouse is unable to work due to age, physical or mental conditions and cannot become self-supporting after the marriage, indefinite alimony may be appropriate.
There are a lot of factors that determine if alimony will be awarded, how long alimony will be awarded for and the amount of alimony that is awarded. One of the most significant factors is the length of the marriage. If the divorcing parties have only been married for two or three years, it’s not as likely that the court will award alimony since the period of the marriage was so short. However, if the parties were married for 30 years, the Court would consider this situation differently. Over a long-term marriage, it may be more likely that one spouse has assumed a financially dependent role on the other spouse and their ability to become self-supporting after leaving such a long marriage may be limited. Therefore, the length of the marriage is one of the significant factors a Court will consider in determining alimony. Other factors include the standard of living of the couple during their marriage and the age, health, and educational background of each party.
It’s important to keep in mind: Alimony is calculated very differently than Child Support in Maryland. In Maryland, child support is calculated using the Maryland Child Support Guidelines. This is essentially a mathematical calculation or algorithmic which provides a specific, recommended amount of child support in each case. Conversely, there is no such program or algorithm for determining alimony. The determination of alimony depends on the facts of each case and how those facts fit in to the legal factors which the Court considers. As a result, whether alimony is awarded, as well as the duration and amount of such alimony, will vary quite a bit depending on the Judge’s discretion in deciding your case.
What Factors Determine How Property, Assets And Debts Are Divided In A Maryland Divorce?
In Maryland, marital property is divided under the principle of “equitable distribution.” However, what is equitable between the parties doesn’t always mean a 50-50 split. While an equitable distribution of assets may result in a 50-50 split, the court will consider a variety of factors when determining these matters.
The term “marital property” refers to any property, regardless of how it is titled, acquired by one or both parties during the marriage. Oftentimes, married couples have property which they have accumulated during the course of the marriage. Marital property can include major assets such as retirement accounts and properties, as well as smaller assets such as vehicles, furniture and personal belongings.
When the parties obtain a divorce, that marital property and each spouse’s claim to such marital property must be resolved. In deciding each spouse’s claim to their marital property, the Court will divide such property in a fashion which it deems to be equitable or fair. For example, consider a couple who purchases a home the first month that they are married. One spouse pays the entire down payment on the home, as well as the mortgage and home expenses for the next ten years. After ten years, the parties decide to get a divorce and the Court determines that the home needs to be sold. In deciding how to allocate the proceeds from the sale of the home, the Court will likely consider the fact that only one spouse contributed to the down payment, mortgage and other expenses for the home during the course of the marriage. Therefore, the Court may determine that a 50-50 split of the proceeds from the sale of the home would not be equitable and would order a different division of the proceeds. Again, this falls entirely within the Court’s discretion in determining the equitable distribution of marital property.
How Are Debts Incurred Prior To The Marriage Split In A Divorce? And How Is Marital Debt Divided In Maryland?
The Courts generally view and handle marital debt very similarly to marital property. Oftentimes, if the debt was accumulated during the marriage and in connection with a marital purpose, each spouse may be held responsible for that debt.
Marital debt is looked at in terms of whether the debt was incurred in relation to or in further marriage. The court handles each situation on a case-by-case basis. In terms of common debts such as the mortgage for a marital home, the Court will often view this is being incurred for the mutual benefit of both parties.
Common questions that will affect the outcome of marital debt division include:
- When was that debt incurred?
- Why was it incurred?
- Did only one party benefit from the purpose for which the debt was incurred?
It is important to note that the Court may consider debt incurred during the marriage as marital debt regardless of who is obligated on the debt. For example, if one party opens a credit card during the marriage in their name only and uses that credit card for marital purposes, such as buying furniture or taking family vacations, the Court will likely view that credit card debt as marital debt. Conversely, if that spouse used their credit card for purposes that benefitted only them or the other spouse did not have knowledge about, the Court may treat that debt as the sole responsibility of the spouse holding the credit card.
Another common example is student loan debt. Many people, especially nowadays, have student loan debt which they are working to pay off. If this student loan debt was incurred before the marriage, it would not be treated as marital debt. If the student loan debt was incurred during the marriage, it could be argued that the student loans are marital debt, but student loans are oftentimes not treated as marital debt because those student loans benefitted only the spouse receiving their education. Again, it is always important to consider who incurred the debt, when the debt was incurred and why the debt was incurred.
For more information on Alimony and Marital Property in a Maryland Divorce, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (410) 673-4888 today.