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Can an adulterous spouse be denied alimony in Maryland?

On Behalf of | Mar 3, 2023 | Family Law

If a person’s spouse cheated on them, it is easy to see why they can no longer emotionally stand to stay married. They may see themselves as a victim. Because the adulterous spouse violated their marital vows and brought about the end of the marriage, does this mean they can be denied alimony?

Absolute divorce and adultery

To answer this question, we first must look at the legal reason behind the divorce.

When a person’s marriage is over, they can file for absolute divorce. An absolute divorce dissolves a marriage for legal purposes. All marital divorce issues are resolved, including alimony. Once an absolute divorce is finalized, the marriage has come to a legal end and both parties are now single.

An absolute divorce must be filed for a legal reason, referred as the grounds for divorce. Perhaps the most common grounds for divorce is mutual consent, that is, a no-fault divorce. However, Maryland does recognize a handful of fault-based grounds for divorce one of which is adultery.

Is there a financial benefit for filing for divorce on the grounds of adultery?

When a spouse is cheated on, it is understandable why they might be loath to pay the adulterous spouse as much as a dime after their divorce. However, the issue of alimony must be resolved.

Alimony is the periodic payments one spouse makes to the other spouse after a divorce. The goal of alimony is to put the spouses on equal financial standing after the divorce and to provide the spouse receiving payments with the financial security necessary to obtain an education or find a job that allows them to eventually support themselves without alimony.

There are several factors a court will considered when determining whether to award alimony, and if so, how much. These factors include, but are not limited to:

  • Each spouse’s income, financial needs and assets
  • The ability of the spouse receiving payments to become self-supporting
  • Each spouse’s age and health
  • The length of marriage
  • The reason the marriage ended

So, if adultery was the reason the marriage ended it is possible the court will take this into account when awarding alimony.

But, for a spouse to be denied alimony because of infidelity, the other spouse would need to prove they had an affair. This can be difficult, as the court will not consider hearsay. Records such as text messages between the adulterer and their partner, receipts from hotels they stayed at or photos of them together might support a claim of adultery.

Still, just because a spouse was adulterous does not automatically mean they will be denied alimony. It is just one factor among many considered and note that mere revenge is not a factor. So, while the faithful spouse can file for divorce on grounds of adultery, whether the adulterous spouse will be denied alimony is not a guarantee.