Understanding the Law: Property Division in Alabama Divorce

Posted by Steven Eversole | Sep 02, 2016 | 0 Comments

Divorce can be an extremely difficult process. When couples make the hard choice to pursue divorce, they often have many questions related to the divorce process. One of the most important, and often confusing, questions related to divorce is how property will be distributed during the divorce process. Each state has their own set of rules regarding the distribution of property in divorce, and there are many factors that play into how the court ultimately rules regarding the division of property.

Alabama is an equitable distribution state, meaning that when couples cannot come to an agreement as to how property should be divided then the court will divide property in an equitable manner as determined by the court.

Marital and Separate Property

In Alabama, most property acquired during a marriage is going to be considered marital property. Thus, a house purchased by a husband and wife after marriage is going to be considered marital property that will be divided based on equitable distribution as determined by the court. However, a house purchased by one spouse prior to the marriage, or inherited by only one spouse after the marriage, is likely to be considered separate property. This is not always the case, though, especially in circumstances where such individual property was used during the marriage to the benefit of both parties. In such cases, a court may make a determination that such property is indeed marital property regardless of how the spouses obtained it.

Types of Property

There are two general categories of property: real property and personal property. Real property is land and the buildings on that land. This includes houses and undeveloped tracts of land that one or both spouses may own or acquire, either prior to marriage or during marriage. Land can be a point of contention in divorce, especially when one spouse wishes to keep a particular piece of land that may be jointly owned and comes with a mortgage or other debt that must be taken into account when such property is divided during divorce. Personal property is generally all other property that can be moved. This includes things like furniture, antiques, cars, boats, motorcycles, jewelry, artwork, and all other similar items.

Property Inventory

If you have made the decision to pursue divorce, it is in your best interests to create an inventory of all of your property, both real and personal. This will help you work with your divorce attorney in establishing what property you wish to keep and what property you may be willing to negotiate on, as well as helping you have a clearer picture of all of the property that may be at stake during a divorce. It is also important that you are aware of the value of property that may be divided during the divorce process, including any potential debt related to ownership of that property.

Division of Property

There is no hard and fast rule as to how a court will divide property during a divorce proceeding. Many factors must be considered, and it is very helpful if couples can agree on terms related to property division on their own or with the help of a mediator. Once a court becomes involved in situations where couples cannot agree, the results are sometimes unpredictable. There are many factors that may be considered in the division of property, and a divorce attorney with experience handling divorce in Alabama can help you understand those factors more clearly.

For example, courts may consider some or all of the following factors:

  •      Standard of living during the marriage;
  •      Length of the marriage;
  •      Each spouse's financial and other contributions to the marriage; and
  •      Potential tax consequences related to property division, among others.

Generally, the longer a couple has been married the more likely the courts are to divide property equally, and the more certain elements may factor into that decision.

Legal Assistance

Real and personal property are not the only types of property that may be considered. Some families may own intellectual property, and depending on the financial circumstances of an individual family as well as other factors, retirement accounts and other investments may also be divided during a divorce. There are also important tax consequences that can result from the division of property, and it is important that each spouse is aware of the potential effects these tax consequences may have. If you are considering divorce or have already chosen to pursue it, it is important to consult with an attorney that has experience handling Alabama divorces. Contact Eversole Law to schedule a consultation and see how division of property may potentially affect you.

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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