In 2003 the Court of Appeals clarified an issue that had been confusing for Maryland Divorce Lawyers and their clients. The Court of Appeals in Moore vs. Jacobsen considered the effect of wife’s remarriage on her right to receive alimony.
“ The agreement must contain express and clear language evidencing the intent of the parties that alimony will continue after remarriage.
Section 11-108 of the Family Law Article provides that alimony shall terminate upon marriage of the recipient. However, ex- wife argued that the separation agreement, incorporated into the Decree of Divorce provided that her right to alimony was “non-modifiable”. Two of the judges on the Court agreed with her argument that an agreement prohibiting modification should prohibit “the most radical type of modification”, termination.
However, a majority of the Court sided with ex-husband, holding that under the Maryland Family Law statutes termination and modification were not synonymous. Therefore a provision that prohibited the court from modifying alimony under section 11-107 did not preclude termination under section 11-108 on account of a subsequent remarriage. According to the opinion, the parties’ agreement can trump section 11-108. However, the agreement must contain express and clear language evidencing the intent of the parties that alimony will continue after remarriage of the recipient spouse.
The court reasoned that its ruling would “foster certainty, resolve ambiguity and reduce litigation”. For readers who are interested in more information about alimony modification, this topic was discussed in my prior postings, Can Alimony Be Modified in Hard Times and Rehabilitative Alimony, An Opportunity to Become Self Supporting. Another recent posting discusses the use of guidelines in setting the amount and duration of alimony.