Can Alimony Be Modified In Hard Times?

The recent economic turmoil has had a devastating effect on the economic circumstances of many, even in prosperous and economically stable counties like Howard, Carroll, Baltimore and Anne Arundel. As a result, Maryland Divorce lawyers are fielding inquiries about whether alimony awarded in more prosperous times is subject to modification.

Section 8-103 of the Family Law Article prohibits a court from modifying any agreement or settlement in which a spouse has expressly waived alimony or any provision for alimony that specifically states that it is not subject to court modification. Also under section section 11-107, temporary alimony can not be extended unless the recipient petitions the court before the period of the award has expired.

The law authorizes the court to modify the amount of alimony “on petition of either party…as circumstances and justice require.”

Absent such a prohibition, a court may modify alimony in appropriate cases. First of all there must be a change of circumstances that is material or substantial. The court will not allow either party to litigate an issue that was or could have been litigated at the time of the original award. section 11-107 provides that the court may extend the period for temporary alimony if circumstances arise during the period that would lead to a “harsh and inequitable result without an extension”.

Such modification could include making an award of indefinite duration. The same section of law also authorizes the court to modify the amount of alimony “on petition of either party….as circumstances and justice require.”

Any individual hit by the economic downturn, who is the subject of a prior alimony award not subject to a prohibition against modification, may be well advised to review his or her economic situation with an experienced Maryland Divorce Lawyer.