Alimony is a relatively well-known concept. However, the changes in the new tax laws will affect alimony cases. Alimony is court-ordered financial support from one spouse to the other after divorce. One type of alimony, periodic alimony, is awarded in installments for an undefined duration. While some types of alimony may not be modified, periodic alimony can be modified based on a change in circumstances. Often a spouse paying alimony may have a change in income, which then decreases the ability to pay the current support.
Recently, in Montgomery County, the court addressed claims for modification of alimony and when the court should consider evidence in In re: Wilson v. Wilson. The husband and wife were divorced in 2004. The divorce judgment awarded the wife $1,250 in periodic alimony.
Nearly a decade later, the husband wanted to modify his periodic-alimony obligation because he was planning to retire and would suffer a significant decrease in income. In March 2014, the trial court entered a judgment in the modification action granting the wife’s motion to hold the husband in contempt for failing to comply with discovery and dismissing the husband’s complaint.
A year later, in 2015, the husband went to court again to modify his alimony obligation. He made the same claims – that his income had materially diminished post-retirement and that the wife is capable of supporting herself. The court limited the husband to presenting evidence of his change in circumstance from the last modification action rather than from the first alimony award action in 2004. (He could only present evidence from between the two modification actions in 2014 and 2015.) The trial court denied the husband’s claim and he appealed.
On appeal, the Supreme Court reversed the lower courts and their interpretation of what evidence should be presented for claims of modification. According to the Supreme Court, a court should consider all changes in circumstances since alimony was actually awarded or modified, rather than merely the last time the question was considered. In the husband’s instance, no award or change had occurred at his 2015 modification hearing.
Because of this, when the husband appealed his claim for modification of alimony, the change in circumstances (his decrease in income) that could be considered would date all the way back to 2004, when the alimony was originally awarded.
This case is an example that when you are seeking to modify an alimony award, an Alabama Court can consider all evidence of changed circumstances since the last time the award was either first awarded or modified last. So, if you are in a situation similar to the husband in Wilson, where the court heard a petition for modification but dismissed that petition does not form the basis of a timeline. You can present all the facts and events that have occurred since alimony last changed (even if that change was the first award).
It you are seeking alimony attorney in Birmingham, Alabama or in any county in Alabama, it is important to seek an experienced divorce attorney who understands the realities of Alabama alimony law.
If you need a divorce lawyer, contact INGRAM LAW LLC at (205) 335-2640 for help with your divorce case.