Understanding Alimony Cases

What is Alimony?

Alimony (spousal support) is a periodic payment by one former spouse to the other to assist that spouse in adjusting to a new living situation. The purpose of alimony is to provide an opportunity for the recipient spouse to become self-supporting. Parties to a separation or Absolute Divorce may agree to pay alimony or be court-ordered to do so.

There is no legal obligation to pay spousal support by one party to the other until there is a court order. In limited situations, the Court can order spousal support in a nullity action.

A Court Order is obtained by filing a Complaint or a Petition for a hearing. When deciding what spousal support he/she should order, the judge will take many things into consideration. Examples of things the judge may consider are:

  • How long the couple has been married;
  • The age and health of each spouse;
  • How much income each can earn individually;
  • What the expenses of each spouse are;
  • Whether there are minor children at home; and
  • The history of the way the couple handled money during the marriage.

Maryland Rules of Procedure, Title 9. Family Law Actions, Chapter 200. Divorce, Annulment, Alimony, Child Support, and Child Custody

Maryland Code, Family Law, Title 11. Alimony

Basic Steps in Alimony Cases

Once you, as a spouse, has considered all the topics involving family cases, you or your attorney may seek alimony as part of a divorce complaint, or the alimony can be incorporated into a separation agreement if the couple agrees on the terms. While the parties are free to agree to any amount, the amount of alimony can be modified by the Court unless the separation agreement specifically states that the provision is not subject to modification by the Court.

During litigation, before the divorce, the Court may award temporary alimony or alimony pendente lite. Alimony pendent lite maintains the status quo during the divorce. It does not necessarily mean that the Court will award you alimony after the divorce if there is a finding of need. To receive temporary alimony, a party must show financial need and the ability of the other party to pay. The Court has discretion in determining the amount.

Fees to modify alimony

$31.00 cash, money order, or check (payable to the "Clerk of Court").