If you are contemplating divorce and expect to need spousal support to meet your financial needs after your marriage is dissolved, it could be helpful for you to know how much maintenance, also called alimony, you might receive.
No one receives an automatic amount.
When alimony is calculated, the court will use multiple factors to calculate how much spousal support, if any, your spouse will have to pay to you.
An Overview of Alimony
As the American Bar Association (ABA) explains, alimony, maintenance, and spousal support are the same thing. Alimony is money that one spouse pays to the other for day-to-day support.
Alimony is not child support. A spouse might be ordered to pay spousal support and child support in a divorce, but they are separate obligations. Courts use different factors to calculate spousal support and child support.
Alabama courts do not always order a husband to pay alimony to the wife in a divorce. Sometimes, a wife must pay alimony to their husband. In many divorces, neither party gets an award of spousal support.
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What You Must Prove to Receive an Award of Alimony
In Alabama, a wife used to have a legal right for her husband to financially support her after a divorce if she did not commit marital misconduct. The Alabama State Bar explains that the law is different now. Neither party has an automatic right to spousal support after divorce.
You must prove both of these factors to qualify for an award of alimony in Alabama:
- You need financial support
- Your soon-to-be former spouse can pay spousal support to you
One spouse might have a great need for financial support, but the other spouse cannot afford to pay alimony. Even if one spouse could afford to pay alimony, the judge might not award spousal support if the other spouse can earn sufficient income or receive enough assets in the property distribution of the divorce that they do not need alimony.
Factors Used to Determine Alimony in Alabama
The judge has complete discretion over the issue of whether to award alimony. Also, the judge determines the appropriate amount of maintenance in a case in which the judge awards maintenance.
Some of the things a judge considers when a party requests maintenance include:
- The length of the marriage. A brief marriage is far less likely to receive an order of spousal support than a 20- or 30-year marriage.
- A spouse’s age. When a divorcing spouse is older, it is more difficult to enter the job market at all or to survive on entry-level pay. Also, the judge might consider the amount of pension, retirement accounts, and Social Security benefits that will be available.
- The parties’ incomes. The income of the parties is a significant part of the alimony calculation. For example, if one party earns $20,000 a year and the other spouse earns $200,000 a year, the disparity of income could be a reason for a judge to grant spousal support.
- Each spouse’s earning capacity is a factor in the question of alimony. Courts are unlikely to force one spouse to pay money every month to a spouse who could earn a living wage but refuses to work. Also, if one party voluntarily decreases their income trying to pay less alimony, the court can base the spousal support on how much income the spouse could make, rather than how much the spouse currently earns.
- The court will also consider the level of education each party completed. For example, if a person earned a graduate degree in a marketable field but chooses to work in a different industry for much less money or does not have a job at all, a judge might impute income to that person as earning capacity.
- The health status of each spouse is another element of the alimony calculation. If one spouse has a severe medical condition or disability, they might have a greater need for spousal support.
Sometimes a judge is more likely to order one spouse to pay alimony to the other spouse if the paying spouse behaved improperly during the marriage or divorce process. For example, infidelity, having a child with someone outside of the marriage before the divorce, or infecting the spouse with a sexually transmitted disease could justify the award of spousal support.
Every divorce case is different. The judge might consider other factors in addition to these when dealing with the issue of alimony in your divorce.
Temporary and Permanent Alimony
Alabama courts can award either temporary or permanent alimony. Temporary spousal support gets awarded during a pending divorce case when the judge finds it appropriate to do so. An award of temporary alimony does not guarantee the judge will award permanent alimony at the end of the case. Permanent alimony is what the court awards in the final divorce decree.
The lawyers at Charlotte Christian Law can advocate for you in your divorce. You can call us today for a free consultation to learn more about how alimony is calculated in Alabama and other divorce-related issues.