When heterosexual couples from Maryland divorce, one party typically has the right to seek spousal support from the other partner so that the person with the lower income can maintain the standard of living he or she enjoyed while married. But what about same-sex couples who are legally married? If their marriage turns sour, do they have the right to seek alimony from the partner with the higher income?
Alimony laws vary by state. Nineteen states now recognize gay marriage and that number is continuing to grow. When a state allows same-sex marriage to become legal, corresponding laws that take effect in a divorce – such as child support, child custody and alimony – may also be updated.
Gay marriage became legal in Maryland in 2013. In addition, the Federal Defense of Marriage Act was deemed unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, meaning that all alimony payments must be treated equally. Depending on the length of the marriage, whether or not both spouses worked or if children are involved, alimony may be an option for divorcing gay couples in Maryland. The length of the marriage would also determine how long the partner could receive payments.
However, not everyone qualifies for alimony. Alimony is used to supplement income for those who are unable to work due to age, disability or child rearing. It may depend on one’s education, training and previous or current employment. It may or may not be permanent. Plus, because every couple’s situation is different, the amounts will vary. Because gay marriage – and divorce – is still relatively new in some states, determining eligibility for spousal support can be challenging.
Source: Boston Herald, “Wife entitled to alimony in same-sex divorce,” Gerald Nissenbaum, June 15, 2014