Mediating your Alimony claim in Maryland as part of your Settlement Agreement is a sensible alternative to litigating Alimony issues.
Alimony awards across Maryland and nationally are unpredictable and vary widely from state to state, county to county and judge to judge. There is no reason to believe that a judge can arrive at a fair award better than the parties themselves. It stands to reason that the people intimately familiar with the facts of their lives, with the help of the neutral mediator, and perhaps advice from their independent attorneys or financial professionals, can make satisfying and rational private agreements relating to Alimony in Maryland.
Alimony means the one party is paying the other party, directly or indirectly for support of their spouse or former spouse. The Alimony will be paid in specific intervals (usually monthly). The parties must be living in separate residences when the Alimony is being paid. Alimony in Maryland terminates as the parties may agree or by order of the Court. Alimony in Maryland ends upon the death of either party or remarriage (unless otherwise agreed which is uncommon). Usually Alimony is deductible from the income of the party paying the Alimony for tax filing purposes. This means if the paying party earns $75,000.00 and pays $10,000.00/year in Alimony, the paying party is taxed on only $65,000.00 of income. The party receiving the Alimony is taxed as if he/she has personally earned the income.
Unlike Child Support in Maryland, for which a formula exists under the law, Alimony in Maryland has no specific formula proscribed by law. This makes Alimony unpredictable. Court-ordered Alimony in Maryland is determined by examination by a judge of relevant factors, including:
The ability of the party asking for alimony to be completely or partially self-supporting;
The time necessary for the party asking for alimony to obtain sufficient education or job training to enable that party to find suitable employment;
The standard of living that the parties established during their marriage;
The length of the parties’ marriage;
The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each of the party to the well-being of the family;
The circumstances that contributed to the estrangement of the parties (i.e. “fault”);
The age of each party;
The physical and mental condition of each party;
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;
Any agreement between the parties;
The financial needs and financial resources of each party, including:
- All income and assets, including all property that does not produce income;
- Any monetary award concerning property and award of possession and use of the family property
- The nature and amount of the financial obligations of each party; and
- The right of each party to receive retirement benefits; and
Whether the award would cause a paying spouse or a spouse who is a resident of a care facility with more than two patients to become eligible for medical assistance earlier than would otherwise occur.
(Read the Law of Alimony in Maryland Article).
The court may also consider other factors it deems to be relevant- in Maryland this often includes a review of the “Kaufman Alimony Guidelines” formula worksheet or other alimony calculators.
In recent family law history in Maryland an Alimony algorithm formula was developed by The Bruce A. Kaufman Center for Family Law, in conjunction with the Women’s Law Center of Maryland. It is widely acknowledged that the “Kaufman Guidelines” are highly useful but somewhat limited in their application. This may be because the “Kaufman Guidelines” considers only a few of the factors required for consideration.However, the formula provides a point of reference for mediating Alimony disputes in Maryland after analysis of the other relevant factors.
While mediating alimony in Maryland, the parties discuss the factors as outlined in the law. The difference is that the parties will discuss the facts relevant to each factor instead of a judge. The parties will be asked to provide expense information to determine the “need” of the party asking for Alimony; and the “ability to pay” by the other party. If there are minor children, that analysis will first include the Child Support component in the need and the ability to pay. Remember that Child Support is based on the incomes of the parties and if one party is providing income to the other party, Child Support (which is not taxed) will change as Alimony changes.
If a party needing Alimony has a plan to receive training or obtain a degree, then the parties will analyze those projected expenses and the timetable for that. The parties will consider each factor and whether or how it applies to the facts of their lives.
When mediating Alimony in Maryland, however, one party or both may seek a legal opinion in between mediation negotiating sessions. This is very common during mediation where there is an Alimony request. It is probably useful to consult an attorney who practices in the county court where the alimony case would be tried due to the variation from county to county of alimony awards. Many times, however, the parties themselves arrive at an acceptable figure and await their independent attorney consultation upon the review of the Agreement to ask for legal advice as to whether their Agreement fairly conforms with their legal rights and obligations.
Alimony negotiations focus on how much and how long (duration). Negotiating needs and ability to pay to arrive at a monthly alimony agreement only supplies the “how much.” When determining how long Alimony will last, in Maryland Alimony duration is categorized as follows:
Pendente Lite Alimony- In litigation the term “pendente lite” is Latin for “pending the litigation.” It refers to the circumstance where a party has filed for support to be paid until the final court order (or more often the parties come to settlement).In mediation of alimony in Maryland there may be a goal to arrive at temporary agreement while the parties are negotiating the final settlement. If there was no agreement, then the party needing the alimony may have no choice but to resort to filing in court. This is because a court can only award Pendente Lite Alimony retroactive to the date of filing a petition in court asking for pendente lite alimony. It is this goal of avoiding the financial and emotional costs of litigation which propels rational parties to find the temporary solutions and keep the settlement negotiations viable without interference of aggravating costly litigation. Sometimes in mediation this goal is accomplished by a fair allocation of which party will be paying for which expense as the parties continue the negotiations to their conclusion.
Rehabilitative Alimony. This is a type of Alimony most frequently awarded. It is intended to provide a period of support to allow the party who needs Alimony the time and sometimes the funds to get training to revive his or her vocational marketability and employability. It is intended to allow a party time and support to obtain employment, which may take more time if one party has been out of the workforce for a period of time. The goal is to rehabilitate the party who needs support to become reasonably self-supporting.
Indefinite Alimony. Indefinite Alimony means that Alimony has no specified termination date and the amount of Alimony may vary over the years. Indefinite Alimony may be modified by the parties or the courts over the years. It is most often mediated in long-term marriages where the needing party is of an age, or has medical conditions such that self-support is unlikely; or if that party does become self-supporting, the parties’ respective standards of living is “unconscionably disparate” meaning, unfairly different. Indefinite Alimony also may serve to protect the payor of Alimony in the case of lost employment or illness, the court (and the parties) may modify the award to reflect both parties’ realities.
When you mediate Alimony in Maryland, you may negotiate a hybrid of rehabilitative and indefinite Alimony where the amount is modifiable depending on the circumstances over time but the duration is fixed or vice versa. Tailoring the alimony agreement to the parties’ reality and preferences and concerns is why mediating alimony makes sense.
Mediating Alimony in Maryland is a way to make sure each party is heard. The parties’ direct involvement at reviewing both parties’ expenses may be the most persuasive way to come to an agreement. When parties are detached from attorney-led negotiations and number crunching, they will not fully internalize the reasoning of the Alimony agreement- it is the reasoning which allows the parties to come to an understanding based on facts. The mediator will try to guide the parties away from positions and towards their calculators. When agreements are made based on true understanding, the Alimony agreement may be more satisfying. Unfortunately, many parties find they both will financially struggle for a period of time after separation and divorce, but mathematically understanding that grim fact may help avoid the resentment of the reality.
Therefore mediating Alimony in Maryland, like mediating all of your family law matters arising from separation or divorce in Maryland aims to provide the parties with understanding and satisfaction even with difficult decisions, including Alimony.