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The importance of having clear spousal support guidelines

Few divorce issues are more contentious than alimony. Whether one is making or receiving payments, there are strong opinions held on whether the practice of one spouse providing continuing support for the other should be upheld or altered. Even though the subject of spousal support is so widely debated, many spouses in Maryland and across the nation fail to give the issue sufficient attention when drafting their divorce agreements.

One of the more common provisions laid out in the spousal support section of a divorce agreement involves the circumstances that will prompt an end to those payments. Most agreements stipulate that if the receiving spouse remarries, the payments will cease. However, very few agreements cover what should occur if the receiving party begins living with someone new in a committed relationship that falls short of marriage. That issue has come before the court in a number of states, and it has been handled differently from one jurisdiction to another.

Consider, for example, a party who receives significant spousal support following a divorce. The receiving party goes on to find love in a new relationship and moves in with the new partner. The couple decide not to wed but, instead, to live together in a committed, long-term union. Because one party is receiving substantial financial support from a former spouse, there is reason to avoid tying the knot with the new partner. This leaves the former spouse making support payments long after the need to provide financial support has ceased.

Several states are looking into legislation that would address this issue. As of the time of this report, however, there has been no consensus on how these types of spousal support cases should be handled. This places the onus of the responsibility on divorcing spouses in Maryland and elsewhere, and they must take steps to ensure that the terms of spousal support payments are clearly outlined in their final divorce agreements.  

Source: The Huffington Post, "Does Alimony 'Until Remarriage' Address Nonmarital Cohabitation?", Brad Reid, May 17, 2016

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