Important Divorce Law Changes that You Need to Read for 2018

On January 1, 2018, the Alabama legislature passed laws that will cause significant changes in family law. These laws affect both alimony awards and the division of retirement.

Alimony. Two of the statutes concern alimony. One statute now allows for interim alimony during an ongoing divorce, legal separation, or annulment. Interim alimony is simply spousal support that is given even while the parties’ divorce (or separation or annulment) is still being worked out in court. To qualify for interim alimony, the spouse asserting the claim must establish (1) that the marriage is valid; (2) that the spouse needs the interim alimony; and (3) that the other spouse is able to pay the interim alimony. Interim alimony can also be awarded after the complaint is filed, so long as the spouse proves the relevant factors.

The more dramatic change to alimony appears in the requirements for rehabilitative and periodic alimony awards. Rehabilitative alimony is financial support given for a short, limited duration of time and is provided to help the receiving spouse adjust to single life and establish him or herself financially.

Periodic alimony, on the other hand, is a stream of income for an indefinite period of time. It only ends when the receiving spouse remarries or either spouse dies. The new change occurs in how the statute treats rehabilitative and periodic alimony.

First, the statute asks the court to consider and choose rehabilitative alimony before resorting to periodic alimony. The statute also places a limit on rehabilitative alimony awards for a duration of no more than five years (absent extraordinary circumstances).

Where the statute instructs on periodic alimony, the statute says a person should be eligible for periodic alimony for a length of time no longer than how many years they were married. (For example, if you were married for 10 years, you could not receive more than 10 years periodic alimony.) The exception is for people married more than 20 years are not limited in how much periodic alimony they can receive.

Retirement benefits. In addition to alimony, the legislature made significant changes to the division of retirement benefits in family law. Previously, the law required parties to have been married for at least ten years (during which the retirement was being accumulated) for the court to divide the benefits. The new statute removes this requirement entirely.

Furthermore, under the old system, the party attempting to claim an interest in the retirement bore the burden of proving the fact and value of the amount of the retirement account. Now, the burden is on the party who owns the retirement account. This is a more practical shift because the party who owns the account holds all the information and documents related to it.

Having anexperienced family law attorney on your side can be very important. If you are involved in a family law case, contact INGRAM LAW LLC at (205) 236-3997.​ for an attorney with the experience and knowledge that can make all the difference.