Alimony may remain a source of contention between divorced parties even after the divorce is finalized. When circumstances change, often for the payor, alimony may be subject to modification by the court. Changes in alimony in Maryland fall into three categories of action. Those categories and an explanation of each are:
Category #1: Modification of Alimony Amount
Unless modification of the amount of alimony is excluded by the parties in a deed, agreement or settlement, either party may petition the Court for an increase or decrease in the amount of an alimony award as circumstances and justice require.
Category # 2: Extension of Alimony
Unless extension of the duration of the alimony is excluded by the parties in a deed, agreement or settlement, a party may file a petition for an extension of alimony prior to the end of the term of alimony. If not timely filed, alimony expires at the end of its term..
Category #3: Termination of Alimony
Alimony terminates upon the death of either party, the marriage of the recipient, or the Court finds that the termination is necessary to avoid a harsh and inequitable result.
Reasons for Changing Alimony in Maryland
There are several conditions that may warrant a change in Maryland alimony. Any of the following can be grounds for modification, extension, or even termination:
- Receiving spouse secures gainful employment
- Receiving spouse is not able to become fully self-supporting
- Payor or receiving spouse loses employment or other source of income
- Payor or receiving spouse becomes disabled, injured, or permanently infirmed
- Receiving spouses expenses are significantly reduced
- Receiving spouse is gifted or inherits substantial assets
- Payor or receiving spouse has a substantial increase or decrease in income or expenses
Modification or termination of alimony is often granted based upon a finding that failure to do so will result in a harsh and inequitable result. Some examples of what may constitute a harsh and inequitable result include:
- Payor retires
- Receiving spouse becomes self-supporting
- All the criteria listed above but in such severity that under the circumstances termination would be the only equitable result
A variety of different circumstances and situations can trigger a change in alimony or, at least, warrant a petition to the Court to modify or terminate it. Frequently, we receive questions about cohabitation and its impact on alimony. Unless prohibited in the divorce settlement, it is not a condition for the termination or modification of alimony in Maryland. However, if the receiving spouse is cohabitating and, as a result, expenses are significantly lower, that may be grounds for modification.
If you believe that there has been a substantial change in circumstances for alimony then the best action is to speak with your attorney. They can recommend next steps and, if justified, petition the Court.