Husbands paying alimony, now referred to as spousal support, was a fixture in Alabama divorce. But now spouses have equal rights and duties concerning this support which may be ordered by Alabama’s courts.
Alimony and its types
Spousal support and alimony were traditionally based upon a wife’s common law right to receive support from her husband. This support continued after divorce unless the wife forfeited alimony by her misconduct. Under Alabama’s current alimony law, a husband or wife may receive spousal support. The court must find that the spouse needs support, and the other spouse has the financial means to pay it.
Alabama has temporary and permanent alimony. Temporary alimony is awarded to a spouse needing support after the filing of the divorce suit and while a trial or final court decision is pending. Permanent alimony is awarded by the court when it issues its final divorce decree. Permanent alimony may be gross or periodic. Gross alimony is a fixed total amount that cannot be changed. Periodic alimony is payable on a regular basis, does not have a fixed total and may be modified in some circumstances.
Alabama courts have complete discretion over the award of alimony. There are many factors that courts consider. These include the length of the marriage and each spouse’s age, earning capacity, health, conduct, education, and income.
The award of alimony is separate from any decree or settlement governing divorce property division. But there is usually a relationship between alimony and property division because courts consider many of the same factors while making decisions on both of these matters.
Support decisions require planning because there are long-term consequences and affect the standard of living after divorce and the ability to receive training and education. Alimony, along with property division and child support can have serious and unexpected tax consequences that may be prevented with careful planning.
In addition to trials, alimony and other issues may be decided in negotiations and mediation. Attorneys can assist a spouse in these proceedings and help assure that the final decree or settlement is fair and reasonable.