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Like child custody issues and the division of assets, the award of alimony can be a very contentious issue between divorcing spouses. One spouse may feel they are entitled to alimony or spousal support, while the other may balk at paying alimony. While it has become more common for men to ask for alimony, at this point in time, 98 percent of all ex-spouses receiving alimony are women. Alimony is certainly not required in an Alabama divorce proceeding but can be awarded by the judge with the help of a Cullman alimony attorney. When both spouses have similar earning abilities and incomes, spousal support may not be a factor. Judges generally attempt to balance the needs of both spouses as well as the needs of the children when determining whether alimony is necessary.

There are no guidelines or standards set for Alabama alimony like there are for child support. This leaves the judge in the case as the final decision-maker when determining what is fair for the receiving spouse, as well as what the other spouse can afford to pay. Choosing a Cullman alimony attorney is an incredibly important task when you are considering divorce. Hankey Law Firm has the experience and the knowledge necessary to help you obtain alimony if you are entitled to it, or, if you are unreasonably asked to pay alimony, to prevent that from happening.

Cullman alimony attorney Shelbie Hankey and her legal team are ready to assist you during this difficult time. We take pride in standing up for our clients and protecting their futures while guiding them through the divorce process in the best way possible. Whether your divorce is fairly “normal,” extremely contentious, involves businesses or professional partnerships, or includes high-net-worth assets, Shelbie Hankey is here to help with compassion and skill. Regardless of your divorce needs, Hankey Law Firm is ready to protect you, your children, and your future.  

What Is Alimony?

Alimony refers to court-ordered payments made from one ex-spouse to the other following a divorce. Alimony, also referred to as spousal support, provides financial support to the lower-income spouse. This financial support is meant to provide the lower-income spouse with a similar standard of living as the couple had during their marriage.

Determining how much alimony an individual is entitled to is a complex issue. In the state of Alabama, no alimony calculators exist, leaving judges in charge of determining the amount and duration of alimony. If the court orders that one spouse must pay the other alimony, those payments will be sent/received in a specific amount either bi-weekly or monthly. These alimony payments will continue until:

  • A date set by the court is reached  
  • The receiving spouse remarries or cohabitates with another adult  
  • The paying spouse dies  
  • A judge determines the receiving spouse has not made an effort to become self-supporting.  
  • A significant event such as retirement or a substantial change in employment occurs for the paying spouse 
  • The children being cared for by the receiving spouse graduate from high school 
  • The receiving spouse dies

What Are the Different Types of Alimony in the State of Alabama?

There are three types of alimony in the state of Alabama, including:

  • Periodic alimony, which can last longer than five years, but generally will not last longer than the length of the marriage. 
  • Interim alimony is paid from one spouse to the other while the divorce is pending. Qualifying for interim alimony requires that your marriage is valid, you need the support, and your spouse has the ability to pay this temporary support. Even if you need the support, if your spouse is unable to pay, then no interim alimony will be awarded.  
  • Rehabilitative alimony is awarded to assist the lower-earning spouse for a limited time—up to five years—following the divorce, allowing them to gain the skills, training, or education necessary to become self-supporting. Rehabilitative alimony can only be extended past five years when there are extraordinary circumstances in play. Rehabilitative alimony is usually awarded when all the following statements are true:
    • The receiving spouse is unable to become self-supporting after the divorce at the same economic level as they enjoyed during the marriage. 
    • It will not create an undue burden on the paying spouse to pay this rehabilitative alimony.  
    • Given all the circumstances, an award of rehabilitative alimony is fair.

Judges in Alabama must consider the following when determining whether a person is entitled to receive rehabilitative alimony:

  • One spouse has considerably more individual assets than the other 
  • The marital property received by each spouse as well as the debts each spouse will be responsible for following the divorce will be taken into consideration 
  • When considering work experience, age, health, and education, it is clear that one spouse needs alimony  
  • The overall income and ability to pay on the part of the paying spouse 
  • Whether the spouse that would be receiving alimony is receiving any governmental benefits 
  • Whether either spouse will have primary physical custody of a child of the marriage that needs a level of care that would make it impossible for that parent to work outside the home.

The age and health of each spouse will be taken into consideration, as well as the length of the marriage, and the standard of living enjoyed by the couple during the marriage. Whether one spouse was significantly to blame for the breakdown of the marriage as well as the future employment prospects of each spouse will also be considered.

If one spouse significantly contributed to the other’s education or ability to obtain employment, this will be factored in, along with whether one spouse reduced his or her income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other. As an example, suppose one spouse worked to put the other through medical school, then when the children were born that spouse stayed home to raise them while the other earned a living. In this situation, the spouse would likely be entitled to rehabilitative or periodic alimony. 

The same requirements are in place for periodic alimony as for rehabilitative alimony. Additionally, a judge must find that despite serious attempts at obtaining a job you have been unable to become self-supporting or that rehabilitative alimony is not feasible under the circumstances. These circumstances could include one spouse being older, in poor health, or otherwise being unable to obtain employment. While periodic alimony is not generally awarded for a period of time longer than the marriage lasted, the judge can depart from that time limit, particularly for marriages that lasted longer than 20 years.

What About Taxes and Alimony? 

Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, for any divorces that became final on or after January 1, 2019, alimony payments are not tax-deductible any longer to the payer, and as far as the recipient, alimony payments are not considered income, therefore not taxable. This can make a significant difference in a judge’s consideration of whether alimony should be awarded—and how much alimony should be awarded. 

Does Marital Misconduct Affect Alimony in Alabama? 

If the judge in the divorce case learns that either spouse committed adultery during the marriage (prior to separation), then alimony may be affected. If the spouse asking for alimony committed adultery, then that spouse is unlikely to receive alimony. If the spouse being asked to pay alimony committed adultery, it may not have a significant impact on alimony, as the court will still determine whether that spouse has sufficient funds left each month to pay alimony after paying his or her necessary expenses. 

If adultery significantly impacted marital finances, then a judge may be more likely to consider adultery when determining whether alimony is appropriate. Other types of marital misconduct like abandonment, excessive use of alcohol or drugs, criminal acts that directly led to the couple’s divorce, cruel treatment that endangered the life of the other spouse, or dissipation of assets on the part of one spouse may all have some impact on an alimony award. 

What Can Alimony Be Used For?

Periodic alimony can be used for any expenses, but rehabilitative alimony is expected to at least partially be used for education or skills that will help the receiving spouse obtain employment. Alimony is meant to compensate a lower-earning or lower net-worth spouse so that the receiving spouse will be able to have a standard of living that is roughly equal to the standard of living he or she had during the marriage. Often, one spouse takes more responsibility for tasks like homemaking or childcare, giving up career opportunities in the process. The other spouse that has been able to pursue a career and earn more income may be ordered to pay alimony to the other to compensate for these lost opportunities. 

Can Alimony Be Modified? 

When there has been a significant change in circumstances, either spouse may file a motion with the court to modify the current alimony award. This change in circumstances must be shown to affect the ability to pay alimony or the need for alimony. If the receiving spouse has remarried or is cohabitating with another adult, the paying spouse can ask that alimony be stopped. If the paying spouse has suffered an illness or injury that left them unable to work, that spouse can also ask a judge to modify the amount of the alimony payment or end it completely. If the circumstances of the receiving spouse take a significant change for the worse, and the other spouse has the ability to pay more, the receiving spouse can ask the judge for a modification.  

Hiring a Cullman Alimony Attorney Near You: Contact Us

Whether you need alimony or you are being asked to pay alimony, it is important that you speak to an experienced Cullman alimony attorney from Hankey Law Firm. Cullman alimony attorney Shelbie Hankey will work hard on your behalf to ensure that any alimony award is fair and equitable. The legal team at Hankey Law Firm will comprehensively prepare your case, never letting a deadline slip by, and always keeping you informed of what is going on in your case. Attorney Shelbie Hankey is dedicated to ensuring you get everything you are entitled to during your divorce, using her experience and skills on your behalf. Contact Hankey Law Firm today.