Which Party Has to Pay Alimony or Spousal Support in a Divorce?
Paying alimony or spousal support in a divorce should be gender-neutral. The genesis of alimony was for husbands to pay wives when they get a divorce. Historically, men were the breadwinners and women were homemakers. Of course, this is not the case for many families anymore. Now everyone should have equal rights to an alimony claim. The person that pays is the one who makes substantially more. The the only way you’re going to be granted any type of alimony is if the other spouse makes substantially more than you. Outside of that, someone that is self-supportive is unlikely to get alimony. I’ve seen cases where the incomes are double, one makes a $100,000 and the other makes $200,000, and the court may still not be inclined to grant any type of alimony because they don’t think that disparity is egregious. A person making $100,000 should be able to support themselves and be okay. Unless there is a huge disparity in income, Maryland is not going to entertain any type of alimony.
For What Period of Time Does Someone Have to Be Married in Order to Be Granted Alimony?
You can be granted alimony for any length of marriage. However, the longer the marriage, the longer the amount of time one will receive alimony. You may even get into the area of permanent when you cross that seven or 10-year mark. Every case is fact specific and unique, but for very short marriages I’ve had clients call me thinking they’re going to get permanent alimony and they’ve been married for three years and it is highly unlikely. It’s just not something that the court is willing to do when the requesting spouse haven’t established this type of lifestyle for a long time. When we get into that seven and 10-year marriage mark, then we get closer to crossing into the turf of permanent or indefinite alimony.
The longer you’ve been married, then the more inclined the family law court is to grant indefinite or a permanent alimony. The family law court look at the situation of the party, too. If it was a stay-at-home mom or dad, if this person has a disability and they can’t work, and they’re not going to be self-supportive, and things of that nature, will make the court lean towards more of a permanent type basis for alimony.
When Does Alimony or Spousal Support Actually Begin and can I Get Support During a Separation?
Yes, you can ask for emergency spousal support or emergency family maintenance during litigation, prior to the final divorce. As soon as the case is filed, you can ask for spousal and family support once you have a hearing date. The court will award a temporary emergency amount until the final hearing if you qualify. You can get it as soon as you get your first hearing date, but it may take 2 to 3 months before the first hearing date is set. At your final hearing is when you would ask for a final order or a permanent order. It can be a few months after the case is filed before we get in front of the judge to be able to ask for any emergency.
How Long Will I Have to Pay Alimony or Spousal Support?
How long you will have to pay alimony or spousal support depends on the length of the marriage, but anytime you get into marriages that run seven years or 10 years or more, then you’re more into the period of where the court may award permanent alimony. It depends, again, on the disparity of income, how huge the disparity is, and can the requesting spouse legitimately find work i.e. does not have a permanent disability; as well as how long will it take to get training and the experience to get that person back in the workforce if they were a stay-at-home parent for some period of time or military spouse who had a transient lifestyle. All of these reasons play a role. There is no set formula in Maryland for alimony. You can find the list of factors at Maryland Family Law Code 11-106. The Code lists all the factors that the court takes into account when deciding to award alimony; which includes who may have caused the breakup of the marriage. Again, there is no set formula for alimony, like the set formulas we have for child support. Attorneys run alimony numbers via American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) or Kaufman guidelines but these guidelines are not statutory like child support. Alimony depends on many factors and is always very fact-specific.
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