Alimony attorneys Alabama

What is the Status of Alimony in Alabama?

Navigating the complexities of a divorce in Alabama can be difficult, primarily due to financial aspects such as alimony/spousal support. Alimony represents an essential component in many divorce cases, impacting both parties’ financial futures significantly. It serves to address the economic disparities often seen in marriages, where one spouse is the primary breadwinner, or there is a considerable income gap between the parties.


How Often is Alimony Awarded in Alabama?

Alimony is not awarded in every divorce case in Alabama. Instead, it depends on several conditions and factors that are ultimately left to the court’s discretion. The awarding of alimony often depends on the financial disparity between the spouses.


Typically, alimony is awarded to ensure the lesser-earning spouse maintains a living standard relatively similar to what was enjoyed during the marriage, especially in cases where one spouse gave up career opportunities to care for the family or support the other spouse’s career.

However, alimony isn’t automatically granted just because there is an income disparity.


Alimony is a discretionary determination made by the presiding judge who assesses several relevant factors. These factors include the length of the marriage, the age and health of the parties, the standard of living during the marriage, the current and future earning capacities of each spouse, and the contributions each spouse made to the marriage.


For example, if the marriage was short, and both parties are young, healthy, and capable of self-support, a judge might not award alimony, regardless of income disparity. On the other hand, if the marriage lasted for many years and one spouse hasn’t worked outside the home or lacks necessary job skills due to their role within the marriage, alimony is more likely to be granted.


Duration of Marriage and Eligibility for Alimony in Alabama 

When considering the topic of alimony, the length of the marriage often plays a pivotal role. As a general rule, a longer marriage may increase the likelihood of alimony being awarded, particularly if one spouse significantly out-earns the other. Certain instances where alimony is most commonly awarded include:


  • Long-Term Marriages: These are marriages typically spanning a decade or more. In these cases, one spouse may have foregone personal career or educational advancements to support the household, making alimony necessary to maintain a similar lifestyle post-divorce.
  • Significant Income Disparities: When there is a substantial gap in the earning capacities of the spouses, alimony may be awarded to help balance the scales and ensure both parties can maintain a decent standard of living after the marriage ends.
  • Health or Age Factors: If one spouse is significantly older or has health issues that restrict their ability to support themselves financially, the court may order alimony to help cover their needs.
  • Custodial Parents: When one spouse is the primary caregiver for the children from the marriage, alimony may be awarded to ensure the custodial parent can provide a stable home environment without the need to juggle multiple jobs or rely on state assistance.

Each of these scenarios provides a glimpse into the complexity of alimony determinations in Alabama and the factors that courts weigh in their decisions.


Different Types of Alimony in Alabama 

While the concept of alimony might seem straightforward, it is important to understand that Alabama recognizes different types of alimony. Each is tailored to fit various circumstances arising from the conclusion of a marital relationship.


Pendent Lite Alimony

Pendent Lite Alimony refers to temporary spousal support provided during the divorce proceedings. This type of alimony is designed to maintain the financial status quo of the dependent spouse, ensuring that basic needs such as shelter, food, and legal expenses are met until the final divorce decree is issued.


Rehabilitative or Temporary Alimony

Rehabilitative or Temporary Alimony is awarded post-divorce for a specific duration, generally aimed at providing the recipient spouse time and resources to acquire skills or education needed for self-sufficiency. This type of alimony acknowledges that one spouse may have sacrificed career advancement or education during the marriage, and thus may need support to become financially independent.


Periodic Alimony or Permanent Alimony

Periodic Alimony, also referred to as Permanent Alimony, is granted indefinitely, typically until the death or remarriage of the recipient spouse. While this form of alimony is less common than others, it is generally awarded in cases involving long-term marriages where one spouse has become financially dependent on the other.


Alimony in Gross/Fixed Alimony

Alimony in Gross is essentially a fixed sum of money paid either in a lump sum or over a fixed period. This form of alimony is non-modifiable and is often used to equitably divide marital property. Alimony in Gross ceases upon the death of the recipient and is not affected by the recipient’s remarriage or cohabitation.


Calculation of Income for Spousal Support 

Determining the income of both parties plays a vital role in calculating alimony in Alabama. Several factors are considered in assessing income:


  • Employment wages and salaries
  • Earnings from self-employment or business ownership
  • Investment returns
  • Real estate income
  • Pensions, Social Security, and other retirement benefits
  • Trust income
  • Any other identifiable sources of income


In some cases, the court may deviate from the reported income if it deems that income to be inaccurate or intentionally deflated. For instance, if one party is suspected of underreporting income or deliberately suppressing earnings (for instance, by refusing job promotions or extra hours), the court may base the spousal support calculation on earning capacity instead of the reported income. Additionally, if one spouse has a considerably high net worth, the court might consider their potential income from investments, even if those investments are not currently generating income.


Termination and Modification of Alimony in Alabama

The rules regarding the termination or modification of alimony in Alabama are defined by specific conditions and factors.


Termination of Alimony

Alimony in Alabama can be terminated under a variety of conditions:


  • Remarriage of the recipient spouse. Alimony payments typically cease if the receiving spouse remarries, as their new spouse is expected to assume financial support.
  • Cohabitation. If the recipient spouse starts living with a new partner in a relationship comparable to marriage, alimony payments can be terminated.
  • Death. Either the death of the paying spouse or the recipient will lead to the termination of alimony payments.


Modification of Alimony

The courts in Alabama maintain the authority to modify alimony payments in certain situations, such as:


  • A significant change in circumstances. If either spouse experiences a substantial change in their financial circumstances – such as a job loss, a significant increase or decrease in income, or severe health problems – the court may consider modifying the alimony order.


  • Retirement. The retirement of the paying spouse might be considered a significant change that could warrant a modification of the alimony amount.


Non-Modifiable Alimony

It is important to note that not all alimony orders are modifiable. For instance, “Alimony in Gross” is typically non-modifiable. This lump-sum alimony payment agreed upon during the divorce settlement is set and generally cannot be changed, regardless of the future circumstances of either party.


Contact Our Established Southern Alabama Family Law Firm 

For skilled guidance with alimony and other family legal matters in Alabama, call Stone Crosby, P.C. today at (251) 626-6696 or message us online to set up a personalized consultation.