Does Adultery Affect Alimony in Alabama?
In Alabama, you can get a divorce without having to prove that either spouse was at fault for the separation. In other words, with a “no-fault” divorce, no reason has to be given. Instead, one spouse simply needs to say the marriage is broken and cannot be fixed. Nevertheless, you can also obtain a fault-based divorce in Alabama by demonstrating that one spouse engaged in some marital misconduct, that is, some intentional and wrongful conduct that caused irreparable harm to the marriage. The most common example is adultery. So, many clients ask: how does adultery affect alimony?
First, what constitutes adultery?
There are different definitions of adultery, but it is most commonly understood to occur when a married person has voluntary sexual intercourse with someone other than their legal spouse. In Alabama, adultery alone is sufficient basis for a fault-based divorce. However, when it comes to alimony, although adultery is relevant, its effects are more limited.
How does adultery affect alimony awards in Alabama?
Under Alabama law, judges are expected to order an “equitable” division of property in divorce cases. That usually means that the couple’s property is divided fairly and reasonably. It does not always mean that each spouse will be awarded the same amount of money or property. The same holds true for alimony. Therefore, judges often consider several different factors when determining whether alimony should be awarded. Some of those factors include:
- the earning capacity of the spouses
- the spouses’ respective ages and health
- the length of the marriage
- the spouses’ wealth, social status, and career, standard of living, and potential to maintain that standard after the divorce
- the type and value of the property each spouse possess
Judges also typically consider the conduct of each spouse and whether it led to the divorce. This would necessarily include adultery if that adultery caused of the divorce.
Even though judges are supposed to consider all of the relevant factors, they have the discretion to consider adultery when deciding on an award of alimony. Consequently, evidence of adultery can reduce an alimony award for the “guilty” spouse, or increase the award to the “innocent” spouse. However, evidence of adultery does not allow a judge to award a spouse non-marital property, which is property acquired before the marriage.
If you have questions regarding divorce, alimony or any other family law matter, contact us online or by calling Brad J. Latta at (205) 823-1223 for a consultation.