Understanding the Law - Alimony in Alabama

Posted by Steven Eversole | Aug 24, 2016 | 0 Comments

There are many ways in which spouses depend on one another during a marriage, including financially. When a marriage ends in divorce, former spouses often find that they are now responsible for just as many bills as they had previously shared with their spouse, as well as new financial obligations. Whereas during the marriage both spouses likely resided together, after divorce there are usually two households with mortgage or lease payments, utility bills, and other financial obligations that can be difficult to meet. In some cases, depending on the dynamics of the marriage, there may be a large gap in the income between spouses. This can be due to one spouse having more extensive education, one spouse having a more lucrative career, one spouse electing to stay home to raise children, or any number of unique factors. In these instances, the court may consider a form a spousal support known as alimony.

What Is Alimony?

Alimony is a tool by which the court attempts to ensure that both spouses are in an economic position similar to the one they were in during the marriage. In Alabama, there are two main types of alimony:

  1.     Alimony in gross; and
  2.     Periodic alimony.

Additionally, it is also possible to request alimony from the court during divorce proceedings if a spouse can show the need for such temporary support.

Alimony in gross is a lump sum alimony payment that can only be modified within 30 days of a final divorce decree. After the 30-day period has run, you can no longer request that alimony in gross be modified. It is not affected by the receiving spouse getting remarried, nor does it have to be affected by the receiving spouse's current financial position. Instead, alimony in gross takes into account the receiving spouse's right to financial assets at the time of divorce. The amount of alimony awarded through a lump sum payment may not have tax consequences, depending on the circumstances.

Periodic alimony is alimony that is paid over a period of time determined by the court. A spouse that has been ordered to pay periodic alimony can request such payments to be modified if they can demonstrate that the receiving spouse has had a material change in circumstances that may affect the amount of alimony that has been ordered to be paid, such as a lucrative promotion at work. Periodic alimony can also be terminated if the receiving spouse remarries or begins cohabitating with a new romantic partner. Periodic alimony payments are tax deductible for the spouse required to make the payments and also qualify as taxable income for the spouse receiving the payments.

How Is Alimony Determined?

Alimony in Alabama is discretionary and awarded based on the requesting party's need for financial assistance and the prospective paying party's potential ability to provide that financial assistance. That means that courts have the option to determine whether or not alimony is appropriate in an individual divorce proceeding. There is no specific statutory formula to determine what amount, if any, is appropriate in Alabama. However, there are some factors courts generally use to determine whether or not to award alimony and, if so, how much. These factors may include:

  1.     The earning ability of each individual spouse;
  2.     The length of the marriage in question;
  3.     The value of property owned by each spouse;
  4.     Conduct of each spouse during the marriage;
  5.     Age and health of each spouse; and
  6.     Any other factors a court determines are relevant to the individual divorce proceedings.

In general, Alabama courts are reluctant to order alimony in marriages that have not lasted at least 12 years. Alimony is usually only awarded in circumstances where one spouse has been financially dependent on the other for a large portion of the marriage, often regardless of the reason for that dependence.

How Can I Find Out More About Alimony in Alabama?

Alimony can be a tricky subject, and it is certainly a sensitive one for many people. If you are considering divorce and have questions about how potential alimony payments could affect you, it is important to consult with an attorney that has experience handling divorces in Alabama. Eversole Law has handled many types of divorce proceedings in Alabama, and can use that experience to help you understand the divorce process more thoroughly so that you can begin planning for the potential financial impact divorce may have on you. Contact Eversole Law to schedule a consultation to find out more about divorce proceedings in Alabama, as well as alimony and child support.

About the Author

Steven Eversole

J.D., Samford University's Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham, Alabama B.A., University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

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