It’s extremely rare for someone to request alimony separate from divorce these days, but it is possible. In an interesting 2009 case that illustrates the importance of having a family lawyer represent you through your divorce, a couple were married and had two children. The husband filed for limited divorce after a one-year separation from his wife. Next the wife counter-claimed for absolute divorce on the basis of adultery and abandonment. The wife requested alimony.
Both of the spouses needed an interpreter and were not represented by counsel. By law, requests for divorce are granted only with a corroborating witness. Neither the husband nor the wife had brought one. The court wasn’t able to award a divorce or a limited divorce. Additionally neither spouse offered testimony to corroborate grounds for divorce. The trial judge nonetheless heard testimony on child support and alimony.
Although the divorce case collapsed, the judge awarded custody of the two kids to the wife and ordered the husband to pay child support of $764. The judge ordered the husband to pay $1500 to the wife every month as indefinite alimony. The court did not characterize the alimony or child support as pendente lite (temporary pending litigation). The case was closed with the requests for divorce denied.
The husband appealed. The appellate court considered whether the grant of indefinite alimony and the child support award should stand. The husband essentially argued that the wife didn’t establish that she was entitled to alimony. The court explained that alimony without divorce actually had a historical basis. Originally a husband was legally responsible for providing maintenance to his wife. If the husband failed to provide for his wife or required her to leave the marital house, the equity court could order alimony. Originally there was no alimony connected to absolute divorce.
After a length discussion of the relevant history, the court explained that alimony without divorce was still able to be requested after 1841. The Alimony Act of 1980 restructured the law and established uniform procedures for enforcement. Since the law was adopted, alimony can be awarded either for a fixed or an indefinite term. The latter is awarded in exceptional cases and the former is preferred. The court explained that alimony was not to b a lifetime pension but facilitated the transition between a married state and a separate single one. Alimony may be awarded where there is a complaint for alimony or as part of a decree granting an annulment, a limited divorce or an absolute divorce.
The appellate court explained that it was possible to request alimony even where no divorce or annulment was granted. However, a spouse has to show facts entitling him to an absolute or limited divorce, even if divorce isn’t sought. In this case, the wife had to prove a case for limited or absolute divorce. However, she had failed to meet the corroboration requirement.
The court cannot grant divorce based simply on the party’s agreement in Maryland. A plaintiff must testify and that testimony must be corroborated. In this case, the wife claimed adultery and abandonment but gave no testimony to support either. The alimony award was therefore vacated. For similar reasons the child support award was also vacated.
If you are dealing with difficult and sensitive divorce or alimony issues, contact an experienced Maryland family law attorney for representation. Our office may be able to guide through this challenging process.
Corporal Punishment in Maryland Family Law, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, January 26, 2013
Untimely Objections in Maryland Family Law, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, January 10, 2013