At the final divorce hearing, a spouse may seek rehabilitative or indefinite alimony. Rehabilitative alimony is intended to provide a person with enough support to get whatever training or education is necessary to become self-supporting. Indefinite alimony is awarded for an indefinite period when it is unlikely that the party seeking alimony will be able to become self-supporting, or the difference in the two parties’ incomes will be “unconscionable disparate” (too far apart for it to be fair).
Again, each state has a different set of factors for determining alimony – and a few places have started using a guidelines – most state courts decide whether to award alimony and the amount based on a similar set of factors. Generally, the court is required to examine: the length of the marriage, the parties’ financial circumstances and contributions to the family; the parties’ ability to earn income in the future, and the reasons for the breakup of the marriage.
A typical case where rehabilitative alimony would likely be awarded is where the parties are married for ten years, they have a couple of school aged children and both parties are in their late 30’s. The husband has been the family breadwinner and earns over $100,000 per year while the wife has not worked full-time during the marriage instead concentrating on the home and the children’s needs.
The court would probably award rehabilitative alimony so that the wife could return to school (or training) and become self-supporting. At 38, the wife would be too young to retire so indefinite alimony would not likely be awarded. If the same couple were 20 years older, it is unlikely that a court would require a 58-year-old to go back to college and re-enter the workforce. In that case, indefinite alimony would likely be awarded. Remember, there is no requirement that the parties’ incomes be equal (or even close to equal) only that their relative incomes not be “unconscionable disparate”.
In Maryland the legislature requires judges or family law magistrates to determine alimony based on the following:
In making the determination, the court shall consider all the factors necessary for a fair and equitable award, including:
(1) the ability of the party seeking alimony to be wholly or partly self-supporting;
(2) the time necessary for the party seeking alimony to gain sufficient education or training to enable that party to find suitable employment;
(3) the standard of living that the parties established during their marriage;
(4) the duration of the marriage;
(5) the contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family
(6) the circumstances that contributed to the estrangement of the parties;
(7) the age of each party;
(9) the ability of the party from whom alimony is sought to meet that party’s needs while meeting the needs of the party seeking alimony;
(10) any agreement between the parties;
(11) the financial needs and financial resources of each party, including:
i. all income and assets, including property that does not produce income;
ii. any award [for marital property made under these rules];
iv. the right of each party to receive retirement benefits.
(See Maryland Code, Family Law Article, Sec. 11-106(b).)