1st Jun 2015

At Semmes Law Firm, we are often asked about alimony by divorcing spouses.  The question typically comes in one of two forms: (1) Can I get alimony from my former spouse? or (2) Will I have to pay alimony to my former spouse?  The answer to both of these questions is dependent on understanding the types of alimony available in Alabama and when they will be awarded.

Types of Alimony

The following provides a brief look at the different types of alimony available after a divorce in Alabama.

  • Periodic Alimony – This form of alimony is intended to help ensure that the economic status quo of the parties continues after divorce.  As its name suggests, periodic alimony is made in periodic payments, mostly commonly monthly.  Courts take many factors into account when determining whether to award periodic alimony and in what amount. This form of alimony is most common when the marriage lasted for a long time prior to its dissolution and where one spouse substantially contributed to the marriage through homemaking at the expense of their career or education. Periodic alimony may continue indefinitely, or permanently, or may cease upon the occurrence of a specific event like remarriage or after a specific amount of time has passed.
  • Rehabilitative Alimony – The purpose of rehabilitative alimony is to “rehabilitate,” or get a spouse back on their feet and able to support themselves.  It is always for a fixed duration of time, which may be calculated to allow the spouse transition time to get back into the workforce, or to obtain or update their licensure or education.  Alabama courts have described the purpose of this form of alimony as to allow the receiving spouse to “re-establish a self-supporting status.”
  • In Gross Alimony – This form of alimony, sometimes called “lump sum,” is similar to an award of property during divorce.  It is an award of a cash sum used to pay one spouse for their marital property rights where division of property is difficult or impossible for some reason.  For example, it may be used where one spouse operates a business that is dependent on their personal management.  In such a case, awarding in gross alimony rather than an interest in the business is the better approach. Unlike periodic and rehabilitative alimony, in gross alimony cannot be modified once awarded.  It can be awarded in one payment or over a period of time.

Standard for Awarding Periodic or Rehabilitative Alimony

The underlying evaluation of whether a spouse is entitled to alimony balances the need of one spouse to maintain the same economic status quo as during marriage and the ability of the other spouse to make payments.  Prior to 1979, only the former wife could obtain alimony.  The gender requirement was subsequently removed and now either former spouse may obtain alimony if all other requirements are met.

Alimony and Your Divorce

See New Divorce Laws Effective January 1, 2018 for more info.

The experienced Alabama family law attorneys at Semmes Law Firm represent divorcing husbands and wives.  Contact us today to learn how we can help advocate for your rights during your divorce.

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