An Explanation of How Statutory Factors are Considered in the Kaufman Alimony Guidelines

The award of alimony is guided by Maryland statute. Maryland Family Law, Section 11-106(b) sets forth the mandatory factors that must be considered by a judge making an alimony award that is fair and equitable. Many of the factors are quantifiable and these factors are considered in the calculations that result in the alimony recommendations produced by the Kaufman Alimony Guidelines. Other factors, such as the cause of the estrangement of the parties, are not quantifiable and will be addressed through negotiations between the parties and the discretion of the judge.

The following is the list of factors included in Maryland Family Law, Section 11-106(b) and an explanation of how each factor is incorporated in the Kaufman Alimony Guidelines.

Maryland Family Law, Section 11-106 (b)

In making the determination, the court shall consider all the factors necessary for a fair and equitable award, including:

            (1)      the ability of the party seeking alimony to be wholly or partly self-supporting;

In the first section of the program, “Claimant’s Personal Status” there is a box entitled Claimant’s Weighted Education and Skills Score. This score is assigned by considering two factors: claimant’s income potential and claimant’s education level. These two factors are assigned numbers ranging from 0 to 15. The program does not assign a number. Through discussion and negotiation, parties can agree on a score by either considering the claimant’s income potential or education. Alternatively, each side can choose the score that best represents his or her position and the resulting alimony recommendations will provide a range for negotiation purposes or judicial discretion.

The claimant's actual income is entered in the "Claimant's Income and Tax Status" section. Therefore, the claimant's actual ability to be wholly or partly self-supporting is considered.

            (2)      the time necessary for the party seeking alimony to gain sufficient education or training to enable that party to find suitable employment;

Claimant’s level of education and earning potential are considered in assigning the Weighted Education and Skills Score. This score will affect the award of alimony and length of award. A case involving a claimant without sufficient educational training is more likely to result in a recommendation for a longer term of alimony or larger award (depending on length of marriage and other factors). Again, the Guidelines' consideration of this factor will be affected by negotiation between the parties if they can agree upon a score. If an agreement cannot be reached, judicial discretion or determination will be required.

            (3)      the standard of living that the parties established during their marriage;

Information about each party’s present income is entered in the “Claimant’s Income and Tax Status” section and the "Other Party's Income and Tax Status" section. Therefore, the program factors in the income differential, which is probably the most significant factor affecting the standard of living. If the standard of living established during the marriage is unusually high, e.g. the claimant has come to expect extraordinary living expenses during a lengthy marriage or the standard of living is related to assets rather than income, the case may be one where the Kaufman Alimony Guidelines may be less relevant and the outcome will depend more heavily on negotiation and judicial determination.

            (4)      the duration of the marriage;

Length of marriage is taken into account under “Claimant’s Personal Status” section.

            (5)      the contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family;

Nonmonetary contributions with respect to the raising of children are somewhat accounted for by the Guidelines in “Family Custodial Status” section that designates who is or was the primary caretaker of the children. If physical custody is shared or split between the parties, the time they are in each party's custody is considered. If the children are over 18, the guidelines will capture who was the primary caretaker in the “Caregiver Adjustment If Claimant No Longer Has A Minor or Custodial Child" section. Thus, there is consideration given to a claimant who was unemployed during childrearing and is now under-employed due to being out of the workforce for those years. Other nonmonetary contributions must be addressed through negotiation and judicial discretion. Current monetary contributions to the family are captured in the income sections.

            (6)      the circumstances that contributed to the estrangement of the parties;

Evaluation of the circumstances contributing to the estrangement of the parties, commonly referred to as fault, is not quantifiable. Therefore, it is not considered in the Guidelines and is left to arguments of the parties and the discretion of the court.

            (7)      the age of each party;

Age of claimant is captured in “Claimant’s Person Status” section.

            (8)      the physical and mental condition of each party;

The claimant’s physical and mental condition is somewhat accounted for when assigning the Weighted Education and Skills Score. A claimant whose physical or mental condition renders him/her unable to work and has no income potential, thus would command a higher score than one who is able to work. Consideration of this factor will be affected by negotiation of the parties and/or judicial discretion.

            (9)      the ability of the party from whom alimony is sought to meet that party's needs while meeting the needs of the party seeking alimony;

Once an award is calculated, a “Case Score Summary” is produced. This section clearly displays both parties' financial situation after the recommended alimony award is incorporated. Federal, state and local taxes are calculated for both parties, factoring in child support (if applicable) and the recommended alimony. The net income for both parties is shown, including earned income and including or deducting child support and alimony. The financial position of each party can be compared. The financial impact of an award on the payor and the ability for each party to meet his or her financial needs and the needs of children can be evaluated. This calculation does not address specific expenses. Through negotiation, the parties must address the impact of unusual expenses outside of calculations of the Guidelines.

            (10)      any agreement between the parties;

Any agreement between the parties regarding alimony can be entered into the program and the financial impact of the agreement can be displayed.

            (11)      the financial needs and financial resources of each party, including:

                  (i)      all income and assets, including property that does not produce income;

All income sources are considered in "Claimant’s and Payor’s Income and Tax Status" sections. Assets, including property that does not produce income, and any impact of asset distribution must be addressed through negotiations.

                  (ii)      any award made under §§ 8-205 and 8-208 of this article;

The potential income from a non-monetary award or property disposition is considered in the calculation of alimony. Under Maryland law, the disposition of marital property and the payment of any monetary award must be addressed in the determination of alimony. In cases where the parties have agreed upon the property disposition, they can address whether any income will be produced by the assets that have been divided. If the parties don't agree, each side will argue their respective position and how it will impact the potential income of the payor and payee.

                  (iii)      the nature and amount of the financial obligations of each party; and

The Kaufman Alimony Guidelines can be calculated with and without factoring in debt assumed by one of the parties. If one party is taking on a significant amount of debt, that party's income can be adjusted to compensate for the debt payments. Because the program easily allows modifications of various factors, it can be run without adjusting for the debt for the purpose of evaluating the strength of the claim, and then again with the debt to determine the amount of alimony over the period of debt repayment.

                  (iv)      the right of each party to receive retirement benefits; and

Whether a person is receiving retirement benefits will be calculated in income.

            (12)      whether the award would cause a spouse who is a resident of a related institution as defined in § 19-301 of the Health - General Article and from whom alimony is sought to become eligible for medical assistance earlier than would otherwise occur.

This specific fact would make the case inappropriate for application of the guidelines.