Alimony is money one spouse pays to the other for support either during or after a divorce. Alimony is intended to preserve the economic status of both parties as it existed during the marriage. It can be awarded in a lump sum (alimony in gross) or as periodic payments for a determined period of time. When spouses with large differences in income separate, a lower earning spouse may be unable to continue paying for normal living expenses, in which case a court may require the higher earner—whether that’s the husband or the wife—to assist the lower earner financially for at least some period of time.
During the duration of a divorce action, one spouse may be ordered to pay the other spouse temporary spousal support. The right to spousal support is gender neutral; both husbands and wives are entitled to spousal support depending on their financial circumstances. The purpose of temporary spousal support, or alimony, is to provide the spouse seeking support with sufficient income for their basic needs and to ensure that their lifestyle will be able to remain consistent after the divorce.
Upon conclusion of the divorce action, the Court may award permanent spousal support. Permanent alimony was once common but is becoming increasingly rare. A permanent spousal support award is made on the basis of several factors, including but not limited to: each party’s income and earnings; earning capacity; age and health of the parties; obligations and assets of each party; duration of the marriage; needs of each party based on the standard of living established during the marriage; education, job skills or occupation of each party, and other factors that the Court deems relevant and equitable. Permanent alimony is generally reserved for older spouses who have served as homemakers during long marriages. A couple can also agree between themselves to provide one spouse with long-term or permanent alimony.
To award alimony a court must find that one spouse has financial need and the other has the ability to pay. A court will look at all of the relevant circumstances in a particular case. One of the biggest factors an Alabama court will consider is the length of a marriage. In evaluating a spouse’s need, a court will first consider the extent to which separate assets, or any marital assets the spouse receives in an equitable property division, may provide a sufficient means of support without an alimony award. The court will review the ability of a higher earning spouse to pay alimony, the court will generally not consider as part of the paying spouse’s assets any property the spouse owned before marriage, or acquired by gift or inheritance, unless the property was used by the couple as a source of income during marriage.
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303 Williams Avenue SW
Huntsville, AL 35801
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Decatur, AL 35601