Q: I live in MD and have been separated from my husband for seven years with no contact. Can I file for alimony?
I'm facing homelessness in 2 months. I don't have a car and can't get a job without one. I severely broke my ankle in 2016 and had complications after my first surgery that led to a second surgery. Complications have continued and limit me to not being able to be on my feet for more than 2 hours. I've been denied by disability twice and I have no income which has made it impossible to get a place of my own. I've been living with friends for years.
A: "Can" you file for alimony? Yes. Will a court award you alimony? Not enough facts to evaluate that claim. 7 years separation with no contact will not help, but is not determinative. Length of marriage prior to separation, total length of marriage including period of separation, incomes of both you and your spouse during the marriage, both before and after separation, assets acquired by each spouse during the marriage, both before and after separation, the circumstances of the separation (e.g., what caused it, was there abandonment or abuse, or adultery, or was it mutual and voluntary), were there any agreements made between you regarding the separation (in particular, property division and support/alimony issues), each of your employment and educational history prior to marraige, during the marriage, and before and after the separation; the lifestyle enjoyed while still living together during the marriage up to the time of separation; and a host of other factors. I am assuming that there has not been a judgment of absolute divorce entered in a court dissolving your marriage, or a separation or other enforceable agreement waiving alimony. You will need to locate your husband, and he will need to have income and assets from which he could pay any alimony awarded. However, after so long a time separated, unless you were married and together for a fairly long time (10+ years) before you separated, and/or there are fault grounds that led to the separation (adultery, desertion, abuse), a judge may not award alimony, or very little. A lot more facts would be needed. Divorce litigation can get quite expensive. Even if you do not qualify for alimony, if there has been no formal property division by written agreement or divorce judgment, then you may have a marital claim to assets acquired since the date of your marriage, including your spouse's retirement and pension assets, and real property. If you are without funds, you will need to apply for Legal Aide or seek reduced fee or pro bono services of lawyers through the local Bar Association (many have referral services for these cases). There is also a self-help desk at the circuit court in your county where family law pleadings forms and reference materials may be obtained to help you file on your own. Alternatively, if your spouse is wealthy and there are a lot of assets acquired during the marriage, some private lawyers may take the case and pursue an award of attorney fees on your behalf, which can sometimes be ordered paid by the court during pendancy of the divorce action known as "pendente lite" relief.
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