Sometimes, you can pay your alimony directly to your ex. Unlike child support, which requires paying through a third party such as ExpertPay or MoneyGram, no similar regulations exist for spousal support in Alabama. Therefore, unless the judge directs you to pay in a specific way, you can pay cash or send the money to your ex in a way that works for both of you.
However, you should consider a few factors if you decide to go this route. This includes how you plan to track all payments and ensure they receive them. Discussing your options with your Alabama divorce lawyer could also prove valuable. They can help you determine the best possible strategy related to alimony awards and payments. Finally, you should consider all potential issues with a direct payment agreement.
How Does Alimony Work in Alabama?
Spousal support laws in Alabama differ significantly from child support regulations. No set formula exists for determining if and when someone should receive alimony. The judge has a lot of discretion to hear each side’s argument and rule on a fair outcome, given the facts of the case.
Today, getting alimony does not happen as commonly as it used to. This is especially true of long-term alimony awards that offer a significant sum regularly for years to come. In addition, when both spouses have an education and a career, long-term spousal support does not usually prove necessary in many cases, especially in a two-income household.
The judge generally decides to award alimony based on the receiving spouse’s needs and the paying spouse’s income.
Other factors they may consider include:
- The length of the marriage
- The age of the parties
- The education, career field, and wage potential of each party
- The property division in the divorce
- If either party participated in marital misconduct
- If one party contributed to the other’s education or career, either intangibly or financially
- Other relevant factors
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When Is Alimony Possible in an Alabama Divorce?
While the judge has a lot of discretion in awarding spousal support, Alabama law dictates when and how long a spouse can receive alimony payments. Today, most alimony awards in Alabama are temporary.
They may be long enough for the receiving partner to:
- Finish a degree or other job training
- Find a job
- Rent or purchase a car or home
Long-term and permanent awards, like many remember from decades ago, rarely happen today. However, they do occur. This usually happens in long-term marriages where one party sacrificed their career or kept the home while the other focused on earning for the family. Alabama law states that alimony cannot last longer than the total length of the marriage (when the marriage lasted less than 20 years).
This means that the less time you were married, the shorter the alimony duration. Most commonly, judges will award temporary alimony that lasts 24-36 months. This allows the receiving spouse time to complete their education or training and find a job. By law, rehabilitative alimony can only last up to five years without a compelling reason.
Types of Alimony Available in Alabama
You could receive several types of alimony in an Alabama divorce. How you need to pay a spousal support award—or how you will receive your payment—depends on the kind of support and the orders issued by the judge. Your attorney can also help you understand what to expect and explain each type of alimony in more detail.
When a party requests alimony as a part of an Alabama divorce, their attorney can request several specific types on their behalf. Choosing the approach that best fits the circumstances of the case can increase the likelihood of approval. Alternatively, the parties can agree on an alimony amount and duration as part of an uncontested or mediated divorce.
Some of the more common types of alimony awarded in Alabama include:
Pendente lite translates to “pending the litigation.” This refers to spousal support commonly ordered in Alabama. Judges generally grant pendente lite alimony in a temporary order until they issue the final decree.
The paying spouse must pay this type of support until the divorce finalizes. It helps to cover shared costs such as household bills while the divorce is pending. Some spouses who receive pendente lite support do not receive alimony in the decree, although others do.
Rehabilitative alimony gives the receiving spouse some financial support while getting back on their feet. These payments can last a few months or years, although most do not extend past five years. They also end when the receiving spouse moves in with a new partner or gets married.
In general, the spouse who receives rehabilitative alimony may have been out of work caring for children, have less education, or have fewer career skills than their ex. As a result, they need time to finish a degree, learn a trade, or find a new job that will allow them to pay their bills independently.
A judge might use reimbursement alimony if one partner sacrificed for the other’s financial or career well-being. For example, imagine one spouse worked an hourly job to cover the cost of tuition, books, and housing while the other attended college and earned a professional degree. The paying spouse might need to reimburse them for the sacrifices they made in their career.
This could come in the form of a lump-sum payment. However, in professional divorces, you could get a periodic amount that includes a portion of the paying spouse’s income.
Permanent alimony is rare in Alabama, although a spouse could receive this if a marriage lasted 20 years or more. This award usually only occurs when the receiving spouse is a senior, has a disability, or cannot work and earn a living. The spouse must continue paying until one of them passes away, or the receiving spouse remarries.
You could modify or end permanent alimony after a significant change in life circumstances. An Alabama divorce attorney can review your case with you to determine your options.
Paying Alimony in Alabama
Under Alabama law, judges can award alimony in two ways: As a lump sum or through periodic payments. Sometimes, the spouses can choose one of these two methods. In others, the circumstances require one or the other. Each has pros and cons based on your situation.
A lump sum payment allows you to make a single transfer of money into your former spouse’s account and never worry about it again. While paying out one big amount may prove difficult, it prevents you from worrying about making on-time payments regularly for several years.
Periodic installments offer the most common way to pay alimony. If you pay child support, these payments are similar. They are regular payments made before a set due date. They usually occur monthly but could occur weekly or biweekly. In unique cases, alimony could even consist of annual payments throughout the life of the award.
What Happens if I Do Not Pay Alimony?
While the court does not generally monitor alimony payments, you could face severe consequences if you do not pay in full and on time.
This could include:
- Contempt of Court: Contempt of court refers to the accusation you could face any time you ignore or disobey a judge’s orders. They will require you to make a court appearance and explain why you are not following the court order to pay alimony. They will usually demand you resume payments immediately and may even charge additional fees. You will also learn about other penalties, including jail time, if you continue to refuse to pay.
- Seizure of Property: A judge can issue a writ of execution, which allows an official to seize financial assets to cover debts. In this case, money usually comes from a bank or savings account, other funds, or valuable assets.
- Income Withholding: In many cases, a judge will issue a court order to withhold income for the receiving spouse. A judge may opt to issue this type of order from the beginning, making it impossible to pay alimony directly to your spouse. With income withholding, your employer will pay your former spouse a portion of each paycheck. This ensures they get paid regularly and on time.
An ex-spouse could face severe penalties for failing to pay alimony—one reason why you may not want to pay your ex directly. Failing to pay could bring serious consequences, which your former spouse knows. You do not want them to falsely accuse you. You need to prove you paid, which can prove difficult if you regularly hand over cash. Having an accounting method and tracking your payments can prove essential.
How Can I Stop Paying Alimony?
While most modern alimony awards do not last forever, you could stop paying alimony sooner if the facts support it. Alabama law allows various divorce modifications even after the case closes. Your alimony attorney can help you determine if you qualify, file the paperwork, and explain to the judge why you believe you no longer need to pay.
Modifications to an alimony order could include:
- Decreasing the amount
- Increasing the amount
- Changing the schedule
- Moving from an installment to a lump-sum payment
- Terminating the payments
To make any divorce modification, you must show a material change in the circumstances since the final divorce decree. This could consist of a significant change in the life of either spouse that affects their need for spousal support or ability to pay.
While each case comes with different factors, some examples of material changes that might affect alimony payments include:
- The receiving spouse gets married or cohabits with a partner.
- The receiving spouse can support themselves because of a new job.
- The receiving spouse has a significant income from another source, such as a large inheritance.
- The paying spouse significantly lost income from a lost job or major expenses.
- The paying spouse suffered an injury or illness and cannot work.
You should note that no set time exists when you can request to modify the alimony provisions in your divorce. However, you may not see a significant material change in only a few weeks or months. The greater the time between the finalization of your divorce and when you request a modification, the more likely a material change occurred.
In some cases, Alabama law allows the judge to automatically terminate alimony payments. This most commonly occurs when the receiving spouse moves in with a new partner or remarries. However, you have the burden of proof if you request termination of alimony.
Most lawyers can easily prove a remarriage, but they may need a deeper investigation to prove when your former spouse is cohabitating with a partner and sharing expenses and bills. You will want to work with an attorney to document evidence for any alimony modification.
Work With a Lawyer to Get Alimony, Fight Spousal Support, or Modify the Order
Having a family law attorney on your side to guide you through the process can offer an ideal way to ensure your rights remain protected during a divorce, property division, and alimony modifications. Your divorce attorney can also help you with issues related to child custody or child support. You do not have to try to navigate this process on your own. You can work with a family law attorney to protect your income or help you get the support you deserve.
For a legal consultation, call (256) 859-7277
Many Alabama divorce law firms offer a no-obligation evaluation for those who need help navigating the process. Contact a law firm to learn more about your rights, legal options, and next best steps in your case. A divorce law firm can answer all of your questions and help you more confidently move forward with the next chapter of your life.