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Overview of how alimony works in Alabama

Following a legal separation or a divorce, family law courts in Alabama have the discretion to award alimony.

What this means in practice for a Montgomery couple going through a split is that alimony is not automatic, but many people do have circumstances which would make them good candidates to receive it.

Judges must decide whether to award alimony

In order to award alimony, an Alabama judge first has to decide that one of the spouses is entitled under the law to receive it.

Basically, the judge will consider whether the person has the means to support himself after a divorce. Assuming he does not, the judge must then decide if his spouse can afford to pay alimony an whether issuing such an order is fair.

While this might seem like a simple matter, the judge actually has to follow a detailed statute when considering a request for alimony. Doing say may involve wading through details of each spouse’s life circumstances, income potential and spending habits.

Alimony is a high-stakes issue during a divorce or separation because, except in limited circumstances, a judge cannot change her mind an award alimony later.

Judges must also decide the amount, type, and duration of payments

Assuming a judge decides to award alimony, she must then decide what type of alimony to award. Again, this decision will depend heavily on the arguments each side makes to the court.

The default is to award what is called rehabilitative alimony. These payments are designed to give a spouse the extra boost she needs to recover financial stability after a divorce, by, for example, giving her the ability to pursue additional education or job skills.

The goal is to put the spouse in the same economic position that she enjoyed during her marriage. Rehabilitative alimony in the most cases will not last more than 5 years.

In some cases, a judge may decide rehabilitative alimony is simply not enough to ensure a spouse’s financial stability and instead order what is called periodic alimony. This type of alimony can be awarded for up to the length of a marriage; for marriages at least 20 years long, the award can be indefinite.