How Is Property Divided in Alabama Divorces?

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Throughout a marriage, a couple will accumulate a lot of property which then has to be divided if they make the difficult decision to divorce. The decision of how to divide property and debts can be one of the most contentious points in a divorce. While, colloquially speaking, property is generally seen as something a person physically owns, it has a broader meaning in divorce law. While property can include physical items like a house, a car, furniture, and similar tangible goods, it can also refer to non-physical items. These can include bank accounts, retirement accounts, pensions, insurance policies, stocks, and more. While it might seem counter-intuitive, when it comes to divorce law, a debt is considered property as well. While a debt is something you owe, it’s also something you own. This can include mortgages, student loans, car loans, personal loans, and more.

When a couple begins the divorce process, they are often expected to try to come to an agreement on many of the key issues before the case reaches a judge. These decisions include alimony, child custody, child support, and property division. If the couple can come to an agreement on how their property should be divided, the court will honor that agreement under most circumstances. However, it is relatively common that a divorcing couple can’t come to an agreement on such major decisions. In those cases, the court steps in and decides how property should be allocated between the spouses.

Alabama Follows an Equitable Distribution Model in Divorce Property Division

The first step in dividing marital property under any distribution model is to determine what is marital property and what is separate property. For the most part, anything each spouse owned individually before the marriage, that was not used for the benefit of both spouses in the marriage, is separate property. Anything that the spouses acquire during the marriage, however, is marital property. There are a few exceptions to this rule, including inheritance and gifts made specifically to only one spouse.

Most states fall into one of two camps when it comes to dividing property in a divorce. The first model is called community property, and 9 states follow this method of property division. States that follow a community property model almost always split community property assets evenly between the spouses.

Alabama, however, is not a community property state, and is one of the 41 states that follows the equitable distribution model. Equitable distribution, in short, divides property fairly, but not necessarily equally, striving for equity over equality. Alabama courts consider many factors in deciding how to divide property “fairly”, including, but not limited to:

  • The length of the marriage,
  • Each spouse’s earning potential and income,
  • How much money each spouse contributed to the marriage,
  • Each spouse’s level of education and ability,
  • Whether either spouse contributed to their spouse’s education or career advancement,
  • The standard of living that the couple enjoyed during the course of the marriage,
  • The lifestyle that the custodial parent will need to maintain for any children,
  • Each spouse’s age and health,
  • The value of each spouse’s separate property,
  • The type and value of property being divided,
  • Any special medical needs,
  • Whether one spouse was at fault if the divorce was filed on fault-based grounds, and
  • Any waste of money or property on the part of either spouse.

Experienced Cullman County Divorce Attorney

The Hankey Law Firm understands that the decision to divorce isn’t one made easily or lightly. It can be one of the most stressful times in a person’s life. That’s why it is our mission to deliver responsive, reliable, and relentless advocacy to our clients. We know that no two divorces are alike, so we will personally tailor our services to fit your unique circumstances, and fight to protect you, your family, and your future. We offer comprehensive family law services from expert attorneys with over 55 years of combined experience in the field. We proudly serve the counties of Cullman, Blount, Winston, Walker, Morgan, and beyond. Contact us today or call us at (256)-736-8744 and let us get started advocating for you!

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