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OVERVIEW OF ALIMONY – Alabama Divorce Law

Alabama DivorceAlabama Divorce Law Provides For Alimony 

One reality of any Alabama divorce is the fact that each party must carry on after the divorce without the financial support that is inherent in a marriage.  Alabama law provides for awards of financial support in the form of alimony under certain circumstances.

WHAT IS ALIMONY?

Alimony is financial support paid by one ex-spouse to the other ex-spouse. It takes two primary forms; alimony in gross and periodic alimony. Periodic alimony takes the form of periodic payments, typically monthly payments of a set sum of money. Alimony in gross takes the form of a one time payment of a sum of money. This usually takes the form of a lump sum of money intended to last throughout the period that alimony is necessary.

DOES ALABAMA DIVORCE LAW PROVIDE FOR ALIMONY?

Yes. Alabama law provides that a court may award a party financial support for the former spouse under certain circumstances. Alimony awards are on the decline in general because both spouses have employment in more and more families in recent years. In the past, alimony was more common where there was a stay at home spouse who lacked the immediate ability to enter the work force and support themselves after the divorce. That being said, there are a multitude of circumstances that would support an award of alimony. Each divorce case is very different, and the specific facts of the case will dictate whether the possibility for alimony exists.

AM I ENTITLED TO ALIMONY?

Under current Alabama divorce law, a court may award alimony in order to allow an ex-spouse to maintain their standard of living after the divorce or for “rehabilitative” purposes.
As a rule of thumb, the longer the marriage, the more likelihood that alimony may be awarded. However, this is not always the case, and the court will take a number of other factors into consideration. The factors are not all inclusive, and they are not always weighted equally. The factors that are considered are as follows:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The age and the health of each spouse
  • The ability of each spouse to be self-supporting
  • The cause of the breakdown of the marriage
  • The income of both parties
  • Standard of living during the marriage

The court will also consider whether there is some factor that is unique to a particular marriage. One example of this is where a court considers the fact that one spouse suffers from a debilitating illness or is handicapped. It can also be significant if one spouse has put a career or education on hold to raise a family or to allow the other spouse to complete their education or advance at work. In such situations, the court is more likely to award alimony to the spouse that provided the at home support necessary to allow the other spouse to advance in school or career.

HOW MUCH ALIMONY CAN I RECEIVE?

There is no set formula in Alabama divorce law for determining the amount of alimony.  In simple terms, the amount of alimony is dependent on the needs of the receiving spouse and the ability of the paying spouse to pay alimony. The court will consider such things as level of income, amount of assets, the respective liabilities of the parties, the parties’ debts, and the monthly living expenses of the parties.

The decision to award alimony and the determination of the appropriate amount of alimony is a complicated process that takes into consideration a multitude of factors. An experienced Alabama divorce attorney can review your situation and provide guidance as to potential outcomes in your specific case.

HOW LONG CAN I RECEIVE ALIMONY?

In general, periodic alimony continues until the person receiving the alimony remarries, co-habitants with someone of the opposite sex, or becomes self supporting.
Self supporting refers to a situation where the financial estate of the person receiving the alimony becomes larger than that of the person paying the alimony.
Alimony will also stop upon the death of either the person receiving the alimony or the person paying alimony.
In any event, it is wise to consult an attorney as to what steps to take in the event that you believe alimony is due to stop.

REHABILITATIVE ALIMONY UNDER ALABAMA DIVORCE LAW

Alabama divorce law recognizes what is called “rehabilitative alimony.” Rehabilitative alimony is periodic financial support that is paid for a period time to allow a former spouse to re-enter the workforce and become self supporting. Rehabilitative alimony may continue until the former spouse completes a post-secondary degree, earns or reactivates a professional or trade license, or obtains suitable employment.

DOES ALABAMA DIVORCE LAW ALLOW A MODIFICATION OF ALIMONY AFTER IT IS AWARDED?

Yes. Alimony may be modified. Alabama divorce law provides that under certain circumstances alimony can be raised, lowered, or eliminated. In order to modify alimony, you must file a request withe the court. The court must find that there has been a “material change in the circumstances of one or both parties.” In determining whether there has been a material change, the court will look at the following factors:

  • Remarriage of the paying spouse
  • A change in the employment of the receiving spouse
  • A change in the financial circumstances of the parties
  • An event that significantly affects (increases or decreases) the ability to pay alimony
  • Significant changes in health, level of education or age
  • The length of time between the initial alimony award and the request for modification

CAN I GET TEMPORARY SUPPORT WHILE THE DIVORCE CASE IS PENDING?

Yes. A court can order that you receive financial support while the divorce is pending. A request must be made to the court by filing a motion for temporary support. The parties can also agree between themselves about temporary support during the divorce. However, the agreement should be put in writing and signed by both parties, and the court should be made aware of the arraignment.

WHAT HAPPENS IF MY EX SPOUSE STOPS PAYING ALIMONY?

If a person who is obligated to pay support fails to pay, you may file a contempt petition with the court requesting that the court enforce the agreement or order. The request must be served on the other person and they have a right to a hearing as to whether there is a sufficient excuse for non-payment.

Amber Ladner and William Bradford have over 30 years of legal experience assisting clients in courtrooms throughout Alabama, including divorce, child custody and alimony issues.  Call us and we will be happy to meet with you for a no obligation confidential review of your situation.  Call us today for an appointment.

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