How long you have to be married to get alimony in Alabama depends on what type of alimony you’re seeking and several other factors. Judges rarely award long-term alimony in Alabama without certain circumstances, and state laws support this. Understanding Alabama laws is key to getting the alimony you need and deserve or showing that your spouse does not need spousal support after a divorce.
Discussing your options with an Alabama divorce lawyer is the best way to learn more about your rights and your options for seeking alimony during and after your divorce. A lawyer can also help you fight a spouse who requests alimony.
Factors Considered When an Alabama Judge Rules on Alimony
When an Alabama judge rules on alimony as part of the divorce process, they may award temporary support during the proceedings, temporary support after the divorce is finalized, or long-term support. In general, all three options require the judge to consider many of the same factors when deciding on alimony.
Primarily, these factors include:
- The income of the receiving spouse
- The income of the paying spouse
Other factors the judge may consider include:
- How long the marriage lasted
- The age of each party
- The earning potential of each partner
- Each partner’s education and career
- Each partner’s contribution to the other’s education or career
- Property division
- If there was any marital misconduct
- Any other relevant factors
As you can see, the length of the marriage is only one factor considered when an Alabama judge rules on an alimony request. Other more important factors could alter the outcome in your case.
Alabama Law Limits Some Types of Alimony Based on the Length of the Marriage
While judges do have some discretion in divorce cases, Alabama law offers guidelines for when and how long they should award alimony. Most commonly, judges require one spouse to pay the other alimony during the divorce proceedings. This is a temporary order that ends when the divorce finalizes. Whether or not the judge includes alimony in the divorce order is another decision.
Spousal support is not as common as it used to be, and divorcing spouses may fight any requests for it. In addition, the limits under Alabama law almost always mean the order will only include some type of short-term support, if any. Some of the guidelines in these laws include:
Most Alimony Is for a Short Time
Alimony should be temporary in most cases. One spouse continues to support the other until the receiving spouse can meet the specific goals outlined in their request for this type of support. Often, this is a set amount of time or a goal they need to meet.
For example, they may need additional support to allow them to:
- Receive job training, brush up on their work-related skills, or finish a degree
- Find a job
- Rent or buy a home
- Take other steps that will allow them to become financially independent
This is one of many reasons why the factors the judge considers when awarding alimony often includes the receiving spouse’s level of education, work history, and age. These factors help determine the receiving spouse’s earning ability and how long it may take them to refresh a resume, finish a degree, or learn new skills.
There Are Set Limits Unless There Is a Compelling Reason
Alabama law does set certain limits for spousal support based on how long the couple was married. However, the judge has the discretion to award alimony beyond these limits when there is a compelling reason.
Again, most alimony will be temporary—primarily because the alimony awarded cannot last longer than the marriage itself, unless the marriage lasted for 20 years or more. The only way to receive long-term, permanent alimony in your divorce decree is to have a marriage that lasted 20 years or longer and few job prospects.
Anyone could receive spousal support regardless of the length of their marriage. However, in most cases, judges cannot order alimony that lasts longer than the marriage. Shorter marriages will likely only support temporary or rehabilitative spousal support awards. Alabama law requires rehabilitative alimony to last only up to five years unless there is a compelling reason to violate this guideline.
Most Alimony Awards Do Not Exceed 36 Months
In general, it is rare for an Alabama alimony award to exceed 24 to 36 months. This allows ample time for the receiving spouse to get back on their feet, find a job, and establish a new residence, if necessary. Most judges award alimony as a way to ensure the receiving spouse has the opportunity to get the best possible job and earn an income that allows them to maintain the quality of life they previously enjoyed.
When Alimony Ends
When the receiving spouse moves in with a new partner or gets married, the judge will likely approve any request from the paying spouse to stop alimony. The paying spouse must show that the receiving spouse is sharing space and receiving financial support from their new partner or spouse. Working with an attorney can make this part of the process easier.
Different Types of Alimony May Have Different Rules
Before requesting alimony, your divorce attorney should help you understand the various types of spousal support, determine which one is the best fit for your needs based on the facts of your case, and consider any other details that can help the judge decide in your favor.
These steps are important because there are several ways that common types of alimony can work, and you are more likely to receive alimony if you request the type that suits your needs best. For instance, a request for permanent alimony when you were only married a few years is unlikely to be successful.
In general, there are four types of alimony that you might request or receive in Alabama:
Pendente lite is the most commonly awarded type of spousal support and is usually easier to get approved for than other types. This spousal support is temporary during your divorce proceedings and ends when the divorce orders go into effect. The name pendente lite translates to “pending the litigation.” Once the litigation ends, the judge may award another type of alimony. However, many who receive pendente lite support do not receive any more alimony after the divorce is final.
Sometimes, it’s because property division and other aspects of the divorce may eliminate the need for spousal support. For example, imagine one partner remains in the marital home. The judge may order pendente lite alimony to ensure the mortgage payment, insurance, and other expenses get paid during divorce proceedings. In the divorce, the spouses agree to sell the house and split the proceeds. Therefore, neither spouse needs monetary support from the other.
Of the types of alimony available after a divorce, rehabilitative alimony is the most common. Rehabilitative alimony offers a chance for the receiving spouse to become financially independent. They may be able to go back to school to finish a degree, learn a trade, refresh their skills to return to their previous career, find a new job, pay off certain debts, buy a home, or other actions.
The judge generally knows what goals they want the receiving spouse to accomplish while they receive spousal support and determines how long they can receive it based on these goals. For example, imagine you were only two semesters away from earning your college degree, but you quit to support your spouse’s work on their professional degree.
In this case, the judge may grant a year and a half of alimony to ensure that you have financial support while you finish your degree and find a job in that field. This alimony can also help you attain the standard of living you had before the divorce.
Sometimes, there may be a good reason to request reimbursement alimony. When the circumstances are right for this type of support, a judge will likely grant it regardless of the length of your marriage. Reimbursement alimony pays one partner back for the money, time, and support they gave to the other. This often occurs when one spouse sacrifices for the other spouse’s education or career.
For instance, let’s say one partner used an inheritance from their grandmother to pay for the other’s graduate school so they could earn a professional degree. Shortly after, the pair decides to divorce. The spouse with the degree will continue to benefit from their education, while the other spouse lost access to their inheritance and the income from their former spouse’s professional degree.
The judge may order reimbursement alimony as a lump-sum payment or regular payments that equal the amount of the inheritance.
Long-Term or Permanent Alimony
Long-term and permanent alimony is what many think about when discussing spousal support. However, judges rarely award it today. Alabama law generally limits its use in any marriage that lasts less than 20 years.
To get permanent alimony, you will need to show:
- You managed other tasks related to the marriage, family, and home while your spouse worked
- Your age, education level, and other factors make finding a well-paying job difficult
- You are unlikely to be able to attain the standard of living you had in your marriage on your own
- You were married for 20 years or more
Even then, the judge may be hesitant to award this type of alimony if they believe rehabilitative or reimbursement alimony can help you become financially independent.
How an Attorney Can Help You With Alimony During Divorce
There are generally two reasons why someone needs help with alimony during an Alabama divorce:
- They want to request alimony
- They want to fight an alimony request and avoid paying this type of support
Working with an attorney is the best option in both situations. Alabama divorce lawyers understand how the state’s spousal support laws work and how judges use them. In some cases, reaching an agreement with your spouse on alimony may even be possible before the case goes to court. Most judges will honor any agreements made between spouses and include them in the divorce orders.
Requesting or Modifying Alimony
Knowing how to request alimony—including understanding the types of alimony available to you and how to word your request—is central to ensuring that your needs are understood, so the judge can rule in your favor. If you work with an attorney, they can handle this entire process for you.
An attorney can also help you modify orders for alimony if necessary. Divorce modifications are often possible if there was a significant change in circumstances since the final orders.
This change must affect the alimony award directly. Examples include:
- The receiving spouse gets a higher-paying job
- The receiving spouse moves in with a new partner or gets married
- The paying spouse loses their job
- The paying spouse becomes ill and misses work
When a judge awards permanent alimony, the payments end when either spouse passes away or when the receiving spouse remarries. Your attorney can advise you if you believe there is a good reason to modify the divorce orders to stop or reduce alimony in your case.
Contact an Alabama Divorce Lawyer Today
Many Alabama divorce lawyers offer a no-obligation evaluation so you can get answers to your questions, learn more about alimony laws in Alabama, and make a decision about the best way to proceed. An attorney should also explain their services and fees up front.
For a legal consultation, call (256) 859-7277
Working with a knowledgeable legal team is a good idea whether you are considering a divorce, requesting alimony during ongoing proceedings, or wanting to change an alimony order already in place. An attorney can also help you fight a request for alimony if your spouse is demanding support that you do not believe they really need.
Divorce is never easy. Let an alimony attorney help make it easier by telling your side of the story and protecting your rights.