Alimony Incident to Divorce

This case is from the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland. In Cruz vs. Silva, 189 Md. App. 196, 984 A.2d 295 (2009), this case discusses alimony in the event of divorce. The parties were married in 1995. There were two children born to the marriage. The Husband filed for Limited Divorce based on one-year separation. The Wife filed for Absolute Divorce, in the alternative for Limited Divorce, allegations for grounds is 1) abandonment and 2) adultery. The Wife is seeking to be paid alimony from the Husband.

The trial court awarded custody to the Wife along with $764.00 for child support. The court also ruled that Husband must pay to Wife $1,500.00 per month for indefinite alimony. There was nothing else mention in the Order with regards alimony being Pendente Lite. However, the trial court denied the parties both a Limited Divorce and Absolute Divorce.

The Husband argued that there is no evidence to prove grounds for divorce and estrangement between the parties; to project what would be the wife’s maximum potential income; if the parties’ standards of living would be unconscionably disparate; to consider Husband’s monthly expenses.

The court was convinced that the Wife never proved that she was entitled to alimony. Pursuant to the current alimony act, the equity courts have power to award alimony on a decree of Limited Divorce, Absolute Divorce, or annulment.

A Limited Divorce is a judicial permission to live apart separate. However, a Limited Divorce does not end the marriage.

In this case, the evidence for calculating child support was very little. Husband testified he earned $900 per week, but the court stated that the testimony appeared not credible where there was no W-2 forms, employment records, or income tax forms submitted into evidence. The Wife testified that her husband earned $1,200 a week dues to one occasion three years ago she had taken her Husband’s check to the bank for $1,200.00. The court accepted that she was the caretaker of the children, and has not worked for 3 or 4 years.

The history of alimony began in England in 1689, the Provincial Court ruled that the Court had the power to grant alimony in Galwith v. Galwith. In Maryland, this began in 1777 that the Equity Courts have the power to grant alimony. Like the Ecclesiastical Courts of England, the Maryland Courts after 1777 heard and ruled alimony cases. The English Courts determined the alimony issues and awarded limited divorces (a mensa et thoro divorces). However, the Maryland Courts did not have the power to grant a Limited Divorce because they had not jurisdiction to do so. The Legislature granted divorces. Alimony was simply separate maintenance. If the Husband either did not provide for his Wife when living under the same roof or for no reason force her to leave the marital residence, then the court forced him to give her alimony or maintenance.

Before 1841, solely the General Assembly has the power to award a divorce. It was 1841 where the Maryland General Assembly conferred that power to the courts. The General Assembly was forbidden to grant alimony. The General Assembly was forbidden to award divorces in the Constitution of 1851. After courts were given the power to grant divorces, a Wife can obtain alimony.

In 1980, the General Assembly made a sweeping restricting of alimony law. When alimony is awarded, the law prefers for fixed term rather than indefinite term. However, the Court has the power to award indefinite alimony in exceptional cases.

Requesting solely alimony, it was never happened. In Maryland, the only way to be awarded alimony was to show grounds for either a Limited or Absolute Divorce.

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