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Alabama Alimony

In Alabama, alimony is usually referred to as maintenance. According to the Code of Alabama - Title 30 - Chapters: 2-51, 2-52, and 2-55, the court considers the value of each spouse’s assets and “up to one half of any pension, 401k or retirement benefits as long as the length of the marriage was 10 years or more.”

Any separate property is exempt from consideration in the award of support. Alimony and property distribution are both intricately part of the final outcome of any divorce. A claim of alimony in an Alabama divorce is complex and challenging. Therefore, a party should retain a lawyer in any divorce involving alimony.

According to the Alabama statute, misconduct by either party can be considered in determining whether to award alimony, but any property acquired prior to the marriage or by inheritance or gift may not be included in alimony considerations.

Judges sometimes award rehabilitative or temporary alimony in shorter-term marriages, where one spouse needs support for a limited amount of time (perhaps two to three years) until he or she returns to the job market.

The spouses can negotiate alimony, and the court is likely to honor the agreement of the parties that includes alimony.

In Alabama, alimony provides a spouse the financial assistance he or she enjoyed before the divorce. Additionally, alimony provides "breathing room" to obtain a job or education sufficient to ensure an appropriate lifestyle. 

Types of Alimony

In Alabama, courts award lump sum alimony called "alimony in gross," which gives a present value to the recipient’s rights to alimony and is similar to a division of property. As an award for a fixed lump sum, similar to a property settlement, alimony in gross is not modifiable, and is permanent after 30 days from final divorce decree. It is not cancelled by remarriage. In awarding a lump sum, the court ignores the recipient’s separate estate. In addition, a lump sum alimony payment may be a nontaxable transaction.

The court may also order regular support payments over a period of time. This differs from alimony in gross in that it can be modified and ends upon remarriage or cohabitation of the receiving spouse, or the death of either spouse. Periodic alimony is tax deductible by the payer spouse and included as income by the receiving spouse.

Factors Considered by the Court

In Alabama, the judge may award or decline alimony. The judge considers a variety of factors, including an income disparity between the spouses and the standard of living enjoyed by the couple during the marriage. 

Alimony can be awarded to either spouse by the court even if neither requests it. It is rarely awarded in marriages of less than twelve years and is generally reserved for situations where one spouse has been economically dependent upon the other for most of a long-term marriage.

Courts award alimony based on the showing of need by one spouse and the ability to pay by the other spouse. Unlike child support, no statutory formula exists to calculate the amount alimony.

In deciding alimony, the court considers:

  • the length of the marriage;
  • each party’s respective earning ability and future earning prospects;
  • the ages and health of the parties;
  • the value and type of property;
  • the conduct of the parties; and
  • any other factors the court determines relevant.

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