In this article, the experienced specialist lawyer for family law, Thomas Stahl, goes into more detail about maintenance law, the commonalities in maintenance disputes and how to avoid such difficulties.
While the laws of each state vary, the following is based on Maryland law.
Historically, alimony, also known as spousal support, was intended to compensate spouses—usually women—after a divorce who gave up their careers during the marriage to raise children. Legislative changes in the 1970s and early 1980s allowed alimony to be granted to either spouse regardless of sex and was designed to allow the economically dependent spouse to be self-supporting in a divorce. It was not intended to equalize the incomes of the parties.
When the terms of the parties’ divorce are determined by a court, the award of maintenance is separate from the award of child support. When the parties resolve the issues of their divorce amicably and enter into a prenuptial agreement, they typically have more flexibility in determining the terms of financial support between the spouses.
During the divorce of the parties, the court may order Lite trailer or provisional maintenance paid by one spouse to the other. Such an arbitral award is only valid until the court issues a final judgment of absolute divorce. To make such a decision, the court need only consider the recipient’s need for child support and the financial ability of the paying party to pay the child support.
In divorce proceedings, the court can award either rehabilitation alimony or perpetual alimony. Unlike child support, which is determined by a mathematical calculation, a child support amount is determined by a judge based on a number of legal factors such as the length of time the parties have been married, the respective ages of the parties, the health, education, and standard of living of the parties during of their marriage, the financial needs and resources of the parties, the ability of the party seeking maintenance to support themselves in whole or in part, and the time it takes for that party to obtain sufficient education or training to enable that party to do so find a suitable job, among other things.
Historically, alimony, also known as spousal support, was intended to compensate spouses—usually women—after a divorce who gave up their careers during the marriage to raise children.
It is important to remember that the court will consider, among other things, whether the person being asked to pay maintenance can afford it. Even if a party is entitled to child support, a court will not award child support if the other party cannot meet that and all other financial obligations.
A rehabilitation support award is typically a fixed dollar amount for a specified period of time. This award is intended to enable the recipient to support themselves, e.g. B. for returning to school for further education or certification, or for the time required to advance in a particular job. If, after examining the legal circumstances, the court finds that the living conditions of the parties are unconsciously unequal or deviate so far from each other that the result would be unjust, it can award maintenance for an indefinite period. A perpetual alimony, usually based on the advanced age, poor health, and/or education or work experience, or lack thereof, of the receiving party.
Alimony payments are considered recipient spouse income for alimony purposes and are typically added to the recipient spouse’s income and deducted from the paying spouse’s income, which may affect a party’s calculation of alimony. It does not have the same impact on a party’s income tax liability. Prior to the 2017 federal tax law changes, alimony had state tax benefits for the alimony paying spouse. There is no such benefit for divorces after January 1, 2019.
One of the main issues related to alimony payments is their future modification and termination. Alimony awarded by a court can generally be varied as to the amount or duration of the award. Marital settlement agreements entered into by the parties must ensure that they contain specific language making the award of maintenance either modifiable or non-modifiable by a court at the option of the parties. The lack of wording preventing the terms of a contract from being varied by a court is likely to have unintended consequences. Likewise, alimony payments usually end upon remarriage of the receiving spouse or the death of one of the parties.
The Alimony Termination Act contains no provision for terminating alimony when the recipient spouse is cohabiting with another person. However, many settlement agreements may contain additional language stating that a maintenance obligation would end upon the recipient spouse’s cohabitation with another person. In such cases, it is important that this language specify exactly what is meant by the term “cohabitation” and whether that cohabitation applies only to the recipient spouse living with an unrelated person, or whether that unrelated person may be a romantic partner must or contribute to the expenses of the receiving spouse.
Although not as common, courts will enforce a properly drafted marriage contract. Although a prenuptial agreement cannot address custody or child support, it can address alimony or the parties’ waiver of a right to alimony in a divorce. Like prenuptial agreements, prenuptial agreements must carefully include conditions as to whether or not alimony may or may not be amended at a later date by a court, and the precise terms of termination of alimony.
Thomas B. Stahl, Senior Attorney
Law firm Thomas Stahl
8850 Columbia 100 Parkway, Suite 402 Columbia, MD 21045, USA
Tel: +1 410-696-4326
Thomas Stahl is Lead Attorney in the law firm Thomas Stahl. His practice is focused on providing Maryland and DC individuals and families with reliable and effective counseling when considering divorce. Thomas’ continued service and commitment to his clients has been recognized by the Maryland Super Lawyers, the American Institute of Family Law Attorneys, Best Lawyers and Lawyers of Distinction, and he is currently Co-Chair of the Rules of Practice Committee in the Maryland State Bar Association .
The Law firm Thomas Stahl are a Maryland and Washington, DC based family law and estate planning firm. The firm’s experienced attorneys provide full-service representation in matters related to divorce, child custody, guardianship and wills, and estate planning.