Do you have rights to spousal maintenance? The answer to that question depends upon many different factors, including the type of support you are seeking. In general, spousal maintenance may be available to a party who needs financial support. It is not awarded to a spouse solely because of fault in the marriage, or a finding of fault. To be clear, spousal support is need-based, and Maryland courts look at many different factors to determine whether a spouse should be awarded alimony.
There is no specific formula for determining whether one party has rights to spousal maintenance, but rather a variety of factors judges use in making decisions on a case-by-case basis.
Do You Need Temporary or Long-Term Support?
Under Maryland law, courts can award three (3) general types of spousal support:
Short-term alimony pendente lite (to be paid temporarily after the divorce filing and before the final divorce order);
Rehabilitative alimony (paid for a longer period after the divorce, but is not permanent); and
Determining whether you have a right to spousal maintenance will depend in part on what kind of support you are thinking about when you are referring to spousal maintenance. Are you only seeking support to cover temporary costs associated with the divorce, or are you seeking longer term support? In general, it may be easier to obtain short-term, temporary support during the divorce case and while the divorce is pending. However, any award of temporary maintenance during this time does not mean you will be awarded spousal support once the divorce is finalized. To obtain rehabilitative support at the conclusion of the divorce, or permanent support, the court will need to look at many different factors in relation to the parties’ specific situation.
Determining Your Right to Spousal Maintenance Before Amount or Duration
Under Maryland law, the court will first determine whether you are entitled to receive spousal maintenance (meaning an award of support once the divorce is finalized). While you will not automatically have a right to maintenance if you worked as a stay-at-home parent during the marriage, support is intended to help such spouses after a divorce. In determining whether you qualify for spousal support or have a right to it, the court can consider, for example, some or all the following factors:
Your ability to support yourself in the future;
Amount of time necessary for you to find employment or obtain necessary education;
Standard of living during the marriage;
Length of the marriage;
Contributions of each spouse to the marriage, including non-monetary contributions;
Circumstances of the divorce;
Age and health of both spouses; and
Financial needs of each spouse.
If the court determines you do have a right to receive spousal support, then it will move onto a determination of the amount and time of the award. Most alimony awards are rehabilitative alimony, meaning they last for a finite period until the spouse who is receiving payments can support himself/herself. For example, in some situations, based on the age and health of the parties, an award may be permanent.