Alimony and child support, as well as spousal support, are legal issues that arise in divorce and separation, and child support is also potentially an issue for parents who were never married. There is no such thing as a common law marriage in Maryland. As a consequence, alimony and spousal support are potential issues only for divorcing couples and require the assessment of your rights or potential liability in advance of any separation. Generally, without the parties living separate and apart, alimony and child support are not issues that a Maryland court will entertain.
Child Support in Maryland
Maryland has established child support guidelines that are designed to simplify the process of determining the amount of support paid by one parent to another. The guidelines are the presumptive process for determining the amount of support for families in which the parents combined annual income is $180,000 or lower.
Combined Family Incomes Over $180,000 Need Special Attention
If the families combined income is above the “ceiling” of the guidelines, the court can disregard the guidelines, which many judges and magistrates do. In these circumstances, our firm will routinely prepare guidelines with a projection of the guidelines above the $180,000 ceiling to share with our clients to determine what approach and evidence we think is in our client’s best interest. In any event, if the situation is an “above the guidelines” case, a 9 page budget/financial statement must be presented to the court. As experienced family practitioners, we have assisted our clients in preparing many such financial statements to protect their rights and to maximize the opportunity for an outcome that is consistent with their goals.
When Disputes Arise
Even with the application of the guidelines, disputed issues arise with regard to the amount of each parent’s income and the appropriate calculation of other variables that impact the child support guidelines determination of support, including health insurance, day care and medical expenses for children. As child support can be an obligation or a benefit until a child reaches 19 years of age or graduates from high school and is 18, a substantial amount of money can be at issue. Legal advice from an experienced family law litigator is imperative before the issue is addressed.
Alimony in Maryland
In most instances, alimony is much more complicated than child support, and it also has a bearing on child support. While there are several unofficial guidelines that attorneys utilize to assist in analyzing and addressing a claim for alimony, they are not binding on Maryland courts.
Usually, alimony is an issue when there is a disparity in the income of spouses. It can take different forms:
- Rehabilitative Alimony, which usually means there is a defined period of months or years that the alimony is paid before the obligation terminates.
- Indefinite Alimony, sometimes incorrectly referred to as permanent alimony, provides for alimony for an unspecified period of time.
In most circumstances, alimony terminates with the remarriage of the former spouse receiving alimony or the death of either of the parties. However, parties are free to negotiate an agreement that specifies the conditions that terminate the alimony obligation, including cohabitation of the recipient with a paramour. In Maryland, the Family Law Article provides for a list of factors that the court must consider in making a decision with regard to a request for alimony. Included in the factors is the cause of the estrangement of the parties, though the law clearly states that the fault of one party for the divorce does not preclude the court from awarding alimony to the spouse at fault for the divorce. This factor, as well as the others, requires access to legal advice from an experienced attorney to protect your rights or to limit your exposure to a claim for alimony.
Through our years of experience in divorce cases and bankruptcy matters, we have prepared hundreds, if not thousands, of household budgets and bring this knowledge to bear upon each and every alimony case we prosecute or defend.
The court requires the submittal of a long form financial statement of the parties in every case involving alimony. The budgets of the parties as presented to the courts through the financial statements have a profound influence on the court’s resolution of any claim for alimony. Through our years of experience in divorce cases and bankruptcy matters, we have prepared hundreds, if not thousands, of household budgets and bring this knowledge to bear upon each and every alimony case we prosecute or defend. There are also tax implications associated with alimony that require the consideration of an experienced professional.
Divorcing couples are moving on to a new phase of their lives that requires the wisdom of experienced counsel to anticipate future expenses and provide advice on the next phase of your life. With experience comes the knowledge to provide valuable input on financial issues that can provide for creative options in negotiated resolutions of alimony and child support, as well as and the division of the marital assets. Proper, zealous representation minimizes the chances that the pursuit of your future goals is not compromised by not having the financial resources that you should be entitled to post-divorce.