Will I get alimony? For how long? These are questions often asked of a divorce lawyer. See comment from a recent Court of Special Appeals case on the matter:
A trial court has broad discretion in awarding alimony, which may include both
rehabilitative and indefinite components.” Innerbichler v. Innerbichler, 132 Md. App.
207, 246 (2000). Family Law § 11-106(b) of the Maryland Code lists “all the factors” a
court is required to consider 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 their 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;
(8) The physical and mental condition 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 made under §§ 8-205 and 8-208 of this article;
iii. The nature and amount of the financial obligations of each party; and
iv. The right of each party to receive retirement benefits; and
(12) Whether the award would cause a spouse who is a resident of a related institution as defined in § 19-301 of the Health-General Article and from whom alimony is sought to become eligible for medical assistance earlier than would otherwise occur.
Md. Code § 11-106(b). The statute provides that, generally, an award of alimony shall be temporary, and “[a]t the conclusion of the period of the award of alimony, no further alimony shall accrue.” However, Section 11-106(c) allows a “court [to] award alimony for an indefinite period, if the court finds that…even after the party seeking alimony will have made as much progress toward becoming self-supporting as can reasonably be expected, the respective standards of living of the parties will be unconscionably disparate.”
“[U]nconscionable economic disparity is more than a numerical calculation.” Innerbichler, 132 Md. App. at 248 (citing Ware v. Ware, 131 Md. App. 207, 229 (2000)). “To be unconscionable, the disparity in the post-divorce standards of living must work a ‘gross inequity,’ or create a situation in which one spouse’s standard of living is ‘so inferior, qualitatively or quantitatively, to the standard of living of the other as to be morally unacceptable and shocking to the court.’” Whittington v. Whittington, 172 Md. App. 317, 339 (2007) (internal citations omitted). “The Court of Appeals consistently has declined to adopt ‘a hard and fast rule regarding any disparity’ in income for
purposes of awarding indefinite alimony.” Innerbichler, 132 Md. App. at 248 (citing Crabill v. Crabill, 119 Md. App. 249, 266 (2000)). “Each case depends upon its own circumstances ‘to ensure that equity be accomplished.’” Id. Consequently, “economic ‘self-sufficiency per se does not bar an award of indefinite alimony if there nonetheless exists an unconscionable economic disparity in the parties’ standard of living after divorce.’” Innerbichler, 132 Md. App. at 248 (quoting Tracey v. Tracey, 328 Md. 380, 392-93 (1992)). “The determination of unconscionable disparity ‘requires the application of equitable considerations on a case-by-case basis, consistent with the trial court’s broad discretion in determining an appropriate award.’” Id. (internal citations omitted). “[A] trial court’s determination of unconscionable disparity under F.L.§ 11-106(c) is a question of fact,” which we review under the clearly erroneous standard. Innerbichler, 132 Md. App. at 246-47. “When the trial court’s findings are supported by substantial evidence, the findings are not clearly erroneous.” Id. at 230.