Alimony in Alabama
What is Alimony?
Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a court-ordered provision requiring one spouse to provide financial assistance to the other spouse before or after a divorce. The purpose of alimony is to help maintain the receiving spouse’s previous standard of living enjoyed during the marriage.
In Alabama, a spouse may be awarded alimony if the court finds they have a need for it and the paying spouse has the ability to pay. Alimony can be ordered on a permanent basis, for a limited duration, as a one-time lump sum payment, or any combination of these.
Types of Alimony in Alabama
There are several different types of alimony available in Alabama:
Permanent alimony continues until the death of either spouse or the remarriage of the receiving spouse. It is intended for long-term marriages where ongoing income is needed to maintain the receiving spouse’s lifestyle. Permanent alimony is less commonly awarded today compared to in the past.
Rehabilitative alimony is short-term support to help the receiving spouse become self-supporting by obtaining education, training, or work experience. It lasts for a fixed period of time dictated by the education/training plan. Rehabilitative alimony aims to transition the receiving spouse to self-sufficiency.
Periodic alimony provides income to the receiving spouse for a set duration determined by the court. It can last for a number of years based on the facts of the case. Periodic alimony helps bridge the income gap for a spouse who is already employable but in need of support for a reasonable time period.
Reimbursement alimony is a one-time lump sum payment to compensate a spouse who supported the other spouse through school or training. It aims to reimburse the paying spouse’s contributions that enhanced the receiving spouse’s future earning capacity. Reimbursement alimony is not ongoing.
Factors Considered for Alimony Awards
Alabama judges consider the following factors when deciding alimony:
Length of Marriage
Longer marriages often warrant more significant alimony, especially permanent alimony. Shorter marriages may result in no alimony or short-term alimony.
Age and Health of Parties
Older, ill or disabled spouses have a greater need for support. Younger, able-bodied spouses tend to have higher earning capacities.
Earning Capacity of Parties
Courts examine income history, education, job skills, and future earnings potential. A spouse with lower earning potential may receive alimony from the higher earner.
Standard of Living During Marriage
Alimony aims to continue the receiving spouse’s accustomed lifestyle enjoyed before divorce to the extent possible. Higher standard of living marriages warrant higher alimony.
Modifying or Terminating Alimony
Certain events may warrant changing or ending alimony obligations:
Remarriage or Cohabitation
Alimony generally terminates upon the receiving spouse’s remarriage or cohabitation/domestic partnership with a new partner. This constitutes a change in financial circumstances.
Death of Paying Spouse
Alimony obligations end upon the paying spouse’s death, although life insurance can be used to continue payments.
Retirement of Paying Spouse
Retirement may warrant a reduction or termination of alimony provided it constitutes a substantial change in circumstances. This is determined on a case-by-case basis.
Alimony is tax deductible for the paying spouse and considered taxable income for the receiving spouse. This tax treatment does not apply to child support.
Hiring an Attorney
Alimony laws are complex, so hiring an experienced Alabama divorce attorney is highly recommended for either spouse. An attorney can advocate for a fair outcome based on the specific facts. Do your research to find the right lawyer.
Alimony is an important consideration in many Alabama divorces. The court has broad discretion to award alimony based on the statutory factors and circumstances of each case. Various types of alimony may apply. Ongoing alimony can be modified later if warranted by a change in circumstances. Understanding Alabama alimony law is vital to getting a fair divorce settlement.
Q: What if my spouse was unfaithful? Does that impact alimony?
A: Marital misconduct like adultery typically does not affect alimony awards in Alabama. The court focuses on need and ability to pay rather than fault.
Q: Is there a formula for calculating alimony?
A: There is no standard formula. Alabama judges have significant discretion in deciding on a reasonable alimony amount based on the individual facts of each case.
Q: Can I get alimony if I was only married for a short time?
A: While less common, short-term marriages can warrant short-term or rehabilitative alimony in some cases based on need and ability to pay. Consult an attorney about your situation.
Q: What if my spouse and I have similar incomes?
A: If both spouses have comparable earning capacities, it reduces the likelihood of an alimony award. But an attorney can still argue for alimony based on your individual circumstances.
Q: Can alimony be ordered retroactively?
A: Alabama judges cannot make an alimony award retroactive to before the date the divorce petition was filed. Alimony starts from the date of the divorce decree or order.