Alimony is a periodic payment for the support of a current or former spouse, either a husband or a wife. The issue of alimony typically arises when there is a disparity in income between two spouses. The purpose of alimony is to enable the dependent spouse to become self-supporting after the dissolution of the marriage. If you make significantly more money than your spouse, there is a good chance that he or she will seek alimony in a divorce proceeding.
Alimony can be awarded only before the end of a marriage, meaning before the court issues a Judgment of Absolute Divorce. Failure to make a claim for alimony as part of a divorce action means that you cannot return to court to ask for alimony after the Judgment of Absolute Divorce has been granted.
Often, spouses agree to address the issue of alimony in a prenuptial agreement or their marital settlement agreement, which they can then request be incorporated into the Judgment of Absolute Divorce. In such agreements, the amount of alimony agreed upon can be broader or narrower than what the court may award on its own at trial.
Our divorce attorneys at Brown, Goldstein & Levy are here to protect your financial well-being, whether you are seeking alimony or defending against an alimony claim.
Types of Alimony
There are three types of alimony recognized in Maryland – temporary alimony, rehabilitative alimony, and indefinite alimony. The court can award temporary alimony, commonly referred to as pendente lite alimony, to help maintain the financial status quo of the parties from the time you file for divorce until the time the divorce is final. Rehabilitative alimony, the most likely type of alimony to be awarded, allows the receiving spouse to establish him or herself financially post-divorce. For example, rehabilitative alimony may be awarded to allow a spouse to return to school to finish a degree program so that they can become self-supporting. The final type of alimony, indefinite alimony, is more rarely awarded, and is typically sought because of age, illness, or a disability. Our divorce attorneys at Brown, Goldstein & Levy have assisted clients in receiving and defending against all three types of alimony.
Amount of Alimony
The type and amount of alimony awarded by the court depends on the specific facts of each situation. There are designated factors set by Maryland law that the court must consider in determining whether or not to order a spouse to pay alimony. Such factors include, but are not limited to, the length of the marriage, the financial situation of the two spouses during the marriage, the ability of the party seeking alimony to be wholly or partly self-supporting, the age, physical, and mental health of the spouses, and the reasons for the divorce. Generally, the bigger the difference in income and the longer the marriage, the larger the alimony payment will be.
In many cases, a spouse will allege that they are entitled to alimony because they are unable to work. At Brown, Goldstein & Levy, we have the resources and expertise to assist our clients in demonstrating that they or their spouse can or cannot work.
Modification of Alimony
Whether alimony can be modified depends on the specific facts of the case. When alimony is awarded by the court at trial, the amount and duration can be modified upon evidence of a material change in circumstances since the entry of the current alimony order. When alimony is addressed in a prenuptial agreement or marital settlement agreement, the parties determine whether it is modifiable or non-modifiable. If the parties agree in their written agreement that alimony is non-modifiable, that decision is not subject to change. The same is true if the parties waive their right to receive alimony in a prenuptial agreement, marital settlement agreement, or at trial.
Termination of Alimony
Unless otherwise agreed to in a prenuptial agreement or marital settlement agreement, alimony terminates upon the death of either party, the recipient’s remarriage, or if the court finds that the termination of alimony is necessary to avoid a harsh and inequitable result. Because alimony payments can be long-term, it is important to have a skilled attorney to ensure the appropriate amount of alimony is received or paid.
Tax Consequences of Alimony
Prior to January 1, 2019, alimony was taxable income to the recipient and deductible by the payor for federal income tax purposes. With the enactment of the federal Tax Cut and Jobs Act, alimony is no longer deductible from the payor’s income and taxable to the former spouse. This new tax treatment for alimony under the Tax Cut and Jobs act pertains to any alimony payments awarded by the court or provided in any settlement agreement entered after December 31, 2018. Thus, the tax treatment for alimony awarded or agreed to prior to January 1, 2019 are not impacted by the Tax Cut and Jobs Act.